There is a new DVD rip of Chloe available on the internet. The quality is no
better than the previous versions we have seen, so I didn't make any clips, but
I do want to make a few passing comments about the film.
It is an interesting, complicated presentation. If I were to describe the
narrative for you meticulously, which I will not, you would conclude that the
plot is too contrived, like one of those many "erotic thrillers" that came out
in the 80s and 90s after Body Heat and Basic Instinct made a few bucks. There
would be some accuracy in that assumption, but you will almost never get that
impression while watching the movie, at least not until the final two or three
minutes, when you might groan a bit. Before that, however, the film delivers its
plot twists in such a sensible way that you can believe them completely. The
characters are so complex and credible, and are performed so well, that you can
believe you are watching real events happening to real people, even if a
detailed plot synopsis would not reflect that on paper.
A 50ish wife decides that her handsome, professorial husband is probably
cheating on her. She is a doctor and can diagnose the symptoms of an affair. She
sees that young women are attracted to her man. She sees that he likes to flirt
with them. She sees that he seems to establish a real intimacy with his
students. She catches him in a lie or two. She knows that their own sexual flame
has been nearly extinguished. These clues add up to more than enough evidence to
drive her to dramatic action. She hires a gorgeous call girl to tempt her man
and report the results.
That's just the jumping-off point, but it's where I have to stop my
description because things get very complicated very quickly and our assumptions
about the characters are not always correct. They surprise us with motivations
both overt and secret. They are not manipulating one another for money or sport,
but to find something they long for, even if they are not quite sure what that
might be. Their true passions sometimes remain ambiguous to us for many reasons,
not the least of which is that they themselves do not understand them. Of
course, as in any thriller, their words and actions do not always mesh. This
film is a thriller of sorts, but it's not just a thriller. It was directed by
Atom Egoyan, and he's always digging deeper than would the director of a popcorn
film. In a true genre thriller we in the audience are deceived because the
characters are lying to one another, or because the director is simply
misleading us as part of the entertainment. In this film we may be misled by the
words of the characters, but the underlying reason for the dissonance tends to
be both anfractuous and oblique. The characters may be lying to one another, or
they may be lying to themselves, or they may be surprising themselves. It may
even be true that they are lying to one another, and we know it, but that the
lies have a very different significance from that which we first presume.
All of that verbiage can be boiled down to the fact that I enjoyed the film.
The reviews were mixed and the critics who disliked it did so for a lot of the
same reasons that made me like it. For example: "A
serious misstep...treating what is actually a lurid story as though it were a
piece of high art." I think that criticism applies better to some of Egoyan's
other films. In Where the Truth Lies, he managed to turn a really juicy and
light thriller into a hand-wringing drama by taking the whole thing too
seriously, but I don't think he did that here. I think he did lift the erotic
thriller genre into something resembling high art, and ... well ... I like that.
I think it's the closest Egoyan has come in this millennium to fulfilling the
great promise he showed in the mid 90s.
To be completely honest, I did truly hate that pseudo-thriller resolution at
the very end, which seemed to cheapen the film, but before that I was enrapt by
the film's mysteries, and engrossed by its eroticism, which includes plenty of
nudity from curvaceous Amanda Seyfried as the 'tute and some from Julianne Moore as the wife
whose heightened paranoia drives the plot. Liam Neeson provides a steady anchor
for the film as the husband, and he matches Moore in one of the most poignant
scenes I've seen in a long time: the two of them finally decide to stop playing
games and meet in public to confront one another directly with their suspicions.
The scene begins in a cafe, seems to be unproductive at first, then moves to the
street where the characters finally connect authentically, with both actors
delivering emotionally charged moments without resorting to any acting tricks,
just by trying for a heightened level of sincerity which grants us in the
audience a much-needed catharsis after all the gamesmanship we have witnessed. I
wish the screenwriter had found a way to make that scene the film's conclusion.
- Excellent: 3.5 stars from Roger Ebert
- Good: 7.0 at IMDb
- Mediocre: 52% positive reviews overall (126 reviews)