In Theaters: Chloe
Chloe, Atom Egoyan's ripe, psychosexual minuet, poses the infidelity thriller's founding question -- Who am I married to? -- only to leave it to molder, a red herring at last. Even its opening monologue, in which the title character, an upscale call girl played by Amanda Seyfried, makes a compelling case for her market value, is a bit of a feint: this is not a film about what men want, or why they cheat, although the gauzy boudoir shots of Seyfried snapping into her La Perla may suggest otherwise. Able to intuit and attend to the every fantasy and exquisite pressure point of her clients, what Chloe gets out of the bargain, when the sex worker stars align, is to disappear. It's a trick and a trap that powers much of Chloe's rich but blaringly unsubtle treatment of both its central relationship and the larger prism of female sexual identity.
Twenty years Chloe's senior, what Catherine (Julianne Moore) fears most is the encroaching invisibility the younger woman seems to crave. A high-end gynecologist (if you'll excuse the term, and the fact that we don't actually have those in Canada), Catherine has an office on Toronto's snooty Yorkville strip and a cubist home in its poshest neighborhood. She's beautiful, married to Liam Neeson (playing a professor named David), and has a sexually active teenage son named Michael (Max Thierot). She's also terrible at her job: what kind of gynecologist would brush off a mortified woman's searching confession (in stirrups, no less) to never having had an orgasm with the equivalent of, "it's just a series of muscle contractions, I wouldn't worry about it."
The kind who hasn't had a really good one in a while, evidently. When David misses his own surprise party and Catherine finds a vaguely incriminating photo of him with a student on his phone (in having her later interrupt the electronic interactions her son and David have with women, Egoyan neatly captures the offhanded alienation of the "communication" age), she assumes the worst. She also takes the rather drastic step of hiring the comely prostitute she met in the bathroom of a hotel restaurant to try and seduce her husband. Cheaters meets the Windsor Arms? Not quite, although Erin Cressida Wilson's (Secretary) script, based on the 2003 film Nathalie..., can't quite manage that film's self-possessed, quintessentially French combination of sang froid and simmering melodrama. Taken with Catherine's polished beauty and yielding manner, Chloe trains those giant fetus eyes on her like a wounded, crafty animal, and their brief but intense cycle of co-dependence is built on the exercise in sexual storytelling that ensues.
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