A remake of the 2004 French movie Nathalie, and the first of his 13 feature films that Oscar-nominated director Atom Egoyan didn’t write, Chloe is a sleek and erotic drama that uses the familiar and often tawdrily presented plot points of sexual addiction, infidelity and betrayal to dig into the nuance and reasons surrounding the distance between men and women. It’s the rare arthouse, thinking person’s erotic thriller, in other words, and a fairly good one at that, if dinged by some late machinations.
Gynecologist Dr. Catherine Stewart (Julianne Moore) comes to suspect her husband, friendly and flirtatious college professor David (Liam Neeson), of having an affair, so when she comes across the mysterious title character (Amanda Seyfried), an alluring escort, she decides to hire her to test David’s fidelity. Meeting up regularly, Catherine then absorbs the increasingly explicit details Chloe shares regarding her encounters with David, which sting and hurt but also ignite long-dormant and far trickier sensations of surging desire.
Superbly acted and almost flawless in its scene-to-scene construction, Chloe is imbued early on with a woozy sense of mystery and intrigue, something underscored by Mychael Danna’s sumptuous score and Paul Sarossy’s equally lush and inviting cinematography. Despite its title, Moore is actually Chloe‘s anchor, and she gives a stirring performance of considerable depth and emotional insight, shining a light on the way flickering passion warps thinking.
Never mind the roots of its source material; on a macro-narrative level there are common threads to much of the rest of Egoyan’s work: differences between appearance and reality, complex characters who sometimes act against their own perceived best interests, and the subjective nature of truth. Adapted by Erin Cressida Wilson (Secretary), the film only stumbles a bit with some of its third act plotting, and in particular its ending, which seems nipped from a melodrama that, on a very fundamental level, just doesn’t match the rest of the movie. After delicately balancing the cerebral and corporeal for much of its running time, Chloe in the end yields to the baser instincts of what it’s generally believed that film audiences wish to see. It’s not the first time feeling has trumped thought, though, and it certainly won’t be the last, in cinema or in life. (Sony Pictures Classics, R, 96 minutes)