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  Chloe The Other Woman
Year: 2009
Director: Atom Egoyan
Stars: Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Max Thieriot, R.H. Thomson, Nina Dobrev, Mishu Vellani, Julie Kharer, Laura de Carteret, Natalie Lisinska, Tiffany Lyndall-Knight, Meghan Heffern, Tamsen McDonough, Kathryn Kriitma, Arlene Duncan
Genre: Drama, Thriller, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Catherine Stewart (Julianne Moore) is a gynaecologist with a supposedly happy marriage to David (Liam Neeson), and a teenage son, Michael (Max Thieriot), who is doing well at the music academy he attends in their hometown of Toronto. But perhaps all is not as sunny as it seems, for Catherine is worried that her husband may be keeping something from her, in fact she suspects he is having a string of affairs with his female students. The final straw arrives when David misses out on his own surprise birthday party - surely he was actually spending the night with one of his charges? There's only one thing for it, Catherine must now conduct an investigation into his (possible?) affairs...

You may remember the nineteen-nineties craze for so-called "erotic thrillers", ushered in by the eighties trend for neo-noir where filmmakers twigged they could show more than they had ever been able to show before in terms of sexual content, without it turning into an actual porn video. Softcore porn was permitted, and many a VHS renter or subscriber to an adult channel may have enjoyed the benefits of one of this genre: in Britain for a while Channel 5 showed such material extensively, which had its own stars and name directors, but Atom Egoyan was assuredly not one of them. Indeed, work like Exotica was designed to have the audience feel really bad about turn-ons.

Therefore it was a surprise to his fans to see him make Chloe, in effect a remake of a French film called Natalie starring Emmanuelle Béart and Fanny Ardant about a woman who hires a prostitute to seduce her husband, just to see if he will take the bait. In Egoyan's hands, this became a tale of psychological musings over how honest we can be with the ones we love, in particular on the subject of sex: how much would you admit about your fantasies if there was a chance to bring them into reality? Here we were asked to accept the premise that Catherine secretly liked the idea that the prostitute would seduce David as a surrogate for seducing her herself. Believe that if you like.

Said lady of the night was the titular Chloe, played by Amanda Seyfried aiming for respectability with a proper arthouse director but faltering when pretty much everyone who watched this saw through its attempts to class up some silly material. Mind you, Egoyan had more or less tried out something similar with his faux showbiz biopic Where the Truth Lies a short while before, and that had not been too believable either, though the promise of seeing Julianne Moore in a sex scene with Amanda Seyfried was enough to make this the director's most financially successful film; how many viewers were genuinely satisfied with the results of that enticement went unrecorded, but there were rumours that audiences in the theatres were reacting with laughter rather than... whatever reaction was intended.

Maybe the trouble was that Egoyan was daring enough to tackle this subject in the first place, but not trashy enough to make the most of it otherwise. Naturally, you would not get this cast signing on for a soft porn flick, so there had to be some pretence to serious themes and lessons for the characters that the audience could take away, nodding sagely as they went, even when that was, if they were completely honest, the last thing they wanted to see in a film with this plotline. Set in a snowy-but-thawing Canada, its iciness was assuredly part of the director's style, but his cerebral nature let him down when no matter what angle you looked at it, Chloe was essentially late night entertainment fare with a serious face on, a face you wanted to crack into a smile since that would be more fun. But as filming was interrupted by the tragic death of Neeson's wife, maybe nobody was feeling too cheerful anyway. Music by Mychael Danna.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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