Friday, April 16, 2010

Chloe

"We Used to Do Everything Together"

Atom Egoyan's "Chloe" (based on the movie "Nathalie...") is a throwback to the '70's, and that cusp of movie-making history before cable began making the sexually-charged obsession films that used to draw folks into the cinemas. Take a theme of Hitchcockian prurience (including a bit of his fashion sense), slime it with some DePalma directness (without the use of power-tools) and spice it with just a pinch of Kubrickian cruelty and that's "Chloe."

Dr. Catherine Stewart* (
Julianne Moore) has a successful practice as a clinical OB/GYN—very clinical. "It's just the contraction of muscles," she informs a patient who's never had an orgasm. "There's nothing mysterious or magical about it."

In any Hitchcock thriller, such expert dismissal clamors for a cum-uppance.

Fact is, she's worried about her marriage to classical music scholar David (
Liam Neeson). There's not a lot of communication in it. For instance, she throws a surprise party for him, which he misses completely, when he fails to catch a shuttle from New York. Smartie, smartie has a party... She's hurt, embarrassed, vulnerable, and suspicious. David's evasiveness and a happened-upon text message lads her to suspect he's having an affair, despite his protestations (well, she can see him flirting with anything in a skirt!). The couple may be talking, but nobody's listening.

A chance encounter with student-aged escort Chloe Sweeney (Amanda Seyfried, all eyes and lips) gives her an idea; she hires the young hooker to flirt with David—just to see what happens (just to confirm what she suspects in her mind). "What's the client's name?" asks the girl. "He's not the client," the doctor orders.

Of course not. That would imply somebody else has control. The situation is about her, willing to tempt fate
to tempt her husband, and make concrete her suspicions. An arranged casual meeting at lunch confirms her fears—David is interested in the girl. Very interested.

This creates a series of triangulations that are liable to hurt somebody with its knife-like edges. The issues become the usual ones in sexual politics:
who's in control, what's the motivation, what's the risk, who has the headache.

This would be a great deal of fun if it was more...fun. For all the frank-talk and
the abundant nudity on the part of Seyfried and Moore, especially in a girl-on-girl love-making sequence—this movie will be remembered only on the pages of "Mr. Skin"—little is left to the imagination. And imagination is what the film is all about...or should be. In her voice-over, young Chloe boasts that she is skilled enough to become "your living, breathing...unflinching dream." It's an example of how the screenplay is clever with its words and quite precise in its usage. But it has no wit. It takes everything so seriously to the point of ludicrousness, and can't even laugh at its own contrary prudishness. It's like a partner more concerned in acting the part in their performance than with the act itself. It's not fun. Kinky for awhile, but not fun.

Some of Hitchcock's naughty sense of humor would be nice, even some of his comic mother issues,
as opposed to the earnestly oppressive ones here, would have been fine. Hell, I wouldn't have minded a power-tool or two—just something a little over the top, or off of it. Something that might make it a shade more ironic, iconic or comic. It shouldn't be such a conscientiously cautionary tale. What fun is that?

Ultimately, "Chloe" is simply cloying. As disappointing and tasking as a bad date.

"Chloe" is a Rental.

* Stewart. Get it?

5 comments:

The Mad Hatter said...

(Welcome to The LAMB!)

I'm right with you on this film, that it comes *this* close to being what it wants to be, but chickens out at the last minute. Sorta reminds me of things getting hot between a couple only for one of them to say "I'm sorry, I can't do this" when the other one reaches for their belt buckle.

On the upside though, I was pretty happy to see my hometown of Toronto playing itself and looking so splendid as it did. Small victories I suppose.

Great review and a nifty blog - you've scored yourself a new follower!

Yojimbo_5 said...

Hi, TMH (or should I call you Jervis?)!

(I'm a LAMB now? I didn't even check! Better make an announcement.)

Yes. You are precisely right, and eloquently put. "Chloe" is a cold shower. Something to be run in "Health" class. It's ending is so conventional--I mean, think of the potentials here--that it's an opportunity lost. I thought Egoyan was more subversive than that. Oh, well. Maybe next time.

Thanks for the cimpliments and the Following. Reciprocate, I will.

Mike Lippert said...

Another Chloe review and another different opinion. It's fasinating how many different people this movie swayed in so many different directions.

Personally, having thought about this movie in the week since my review I am starting to like it more and more and I started off loving it quite a bit. I have to disagree with you in the fact that I don't think humour would have made the film more enjoyable. Egoyan strikes a serious tone and that's right because this is serious material.

And yes, the more I think about it the more complex this film's layers get. As I've said before, people are used to Egoyan being narrativly complex and like it because they can see it and say oh, something complex may be going on. However, Chloe doesn't take that route, it makes you sit down and interpret actions and think about them and somehow people mistake it as trash or a thriller or whatever when in reality, all of Egoyan's central themes are up there on the screen, you just have to really look for them.

Yojimbo_5 said...

Whay seems to be dramatically complex is merely trangulation. People keep secrets between the triangles—David-Catherine-Chloe, Catherine-David-Michael, Catherine-Chloe-Michael. Then, when one of those sides is shown to be unreliable (and let's face it, they're all unreliable at some point), it turns into a situation that is resolved by a gun-shot and in such a way that it's not even tragically represented.

It's been a single-handed manipulation from the beginning to the end. And that's not complex. It's narcissism and self-destructive narcissism at that.
(it might be interesting if everybody wasn't so damned wrapped up in themselves that they could see some over-arching scheme and try to work against it...but nobody does!)

I think it would have been far more interesting if the situation was resolved besides gun-play--and I'm not talking about throwing knives, I'm talking about resolving the situation, so that all parties are improved. It may sound a little safe, a little blue-sky, but to end it as it does...with all the problems (except guilt) neatly wrapped up...well, there was potential for more.

And by humor, I'm not talking about double-entendres and catch-phrases, I want something more where what people say (like the orgasm line) come back and bite them on the ass, where their smug attitudes that got them into the situation is laid bare before them and the scales can fall from their eyes. I don't know--like having Chloe's middle initial being "O" and standing for "nothing." That sort of humor that comes out of personality that can provide motivatio, besides "I'm horny...isn't eveybody?"

But, I know what you see of value, Michael—you're not wrong, far from it. It's just that the potential was there for more than the type of sexual-subterfuge that permeated the early erotic thrillers in the early 70's. That's my point.

Your comments are invaluable. Keep 'em coming.

Yojimbo_5 said...

By the way, tomorrow is "Take Out the Trash" day at LNTAM. We'll be reviewing the new/old "Clash of the Titans." The review...MIGHT surprise you.