Blu-Ray Review: Overwrought ‘Chloe’ Nearly Salvaged By Julianne Moore

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CHICAGO – Amanda Seyfried is a wonderful young actress. She’s utterly disinterested in being a stick figure starlet on the order of Megan Fox. Her earthiness and honesty make her far sexier than most of her Hollywood peers. She has also sported an interest in acting outside of her comfort zone, but in her audacious new vehicle, “Chloe,” she takes one step too far.

This is the latest erotic drama from Atom Egoyan, the director whose best-known work is still 1994’s “Exotica.” He prides himself on exploring subject matter that’s considered racy (at least by American standards), yet his coldly calculating aesthetic and penchant for overwrought drama often undermine the potential of his material. What made “Exotica” so effective was its masterful unraveling of a tangled yarn, revealing the true nature of characters who started out as complete mysteries. Egoyan tries to repeat the same trick with “Chloe,” but stumbles very badly, causing Seyfried to appear understandably flummoxed. Blu-Ray Rating: 2.5/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 2.5/5.0

It is Julianne Moore’s sensational work in the film’s lead role that keeps the film from flying off the rails (at least until the disastrous final act). She plays Catherine, a gynecologist who suspects that her flirtatious husband, David (Liam Neeson), is having an affair with one of his adoring students. Instead of calling the “Cheaters” squad, she hires an escort, Chloe (Seyfried), to seduce her husband. This leads to a romantic triangle (or perhaps a square) that’s as convoluted as it is unconvincing. Yet in the midst of this mess, Moore’s performance rings absolutely true. She captures the frustration of a woman who feels her family slipping away, bit by bit. She’s uncomfortable with having a sexually active son, Michael (Max Thieriot), and feels hopelessly distanced from her husband, who’s always leering at her from behind layers of symbolic glass panes. When Catherine finds herself getting turned on by Chloe’s sexual encounters with David, the emotional contradictions in Moore’s face are mesmerizing. In contrast, Seyfried is unusually stilted, as if she’s still trying to wrap her head around her maddeningly underdeveloped character.

Chloe was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on July 13th, 2010.
Chloe was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on July 13th, 2010.
Photo credit: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson (who wrote the immensely superior “Secretary”) adapted the story from Anne Fontaine’s 2003 French film, “Nathalie.” Fontaine made a point of blatantly revealing the husband’s infidelity right off the bat. “Chloe” makes David’s identity as an adulterer one of its central mysteries, which allows for several predictable complications to occur, such as the notion that Catherine may be delusional. Unfortunately, Egoyan has a few hackneyed twists up his sleeve, concluding with a finale worthy of “Fatal Attraction” that falls embarrassingly flat. Seyfried may be a voluptuous beauty, but her best features are her striking eyes, which possess the uncanny ability to magnify her inner thoughts. But as Chloe, her eyes convey the blank disorientation of a deer in the headlights. She doesn’t seem to understand who her character is, and neither do we.

Amanda Seyfried and Julianne Moore star in Atom Egoyan’s Chloe.
Amanda Seyfried and Julianne Moore star in Atom Egoyan’s Chloe.
Photo credit: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

“Chloe” is presented in 1080p High Definition (with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio), and includes an audio commentary with Egoyan, Wilson and Seyfried, who take turns explaining their interpretations of the film, while at the same time encouraging viewers to ignore them. It’s rather fascinating to hear Egoyan and Wilson argue over their interpretations of given scenes. Wilson even makes the enticing suggestion that Chloe may be entirely a figment of Catherine’s imagination. Since the awkwardly enigmatic Chloe falls short of credibility, this interpretation is actually the most satisfying, and makes the picture seem better than it actually is. However, Egoyan’s dense descriptions of his visual symbolism make the film seem even more annoyingly pretentious. He also delights in highlighting his fetishistic touches, such as an extreme close-up of Catherine and Chloe’s high heels. Seyfried seems to be having an out-of-body experience, as she talks about her performance from a third person perspective (“She’s so creepy!”). There’s a telling moment when Seyfried reflects on how she felt “uncomfortable and insecure” during the first day of shooting. It’s clear that the actress felt out of her element, and the proof onscreen is crystal clear.

The disc also includes an oddly edited 25-minute making-of featurette, which includes interviews with Moore, Neeson and producer Ivan Reitman. Wilson says that the “core of the film” is the mother/son story, which was completely sidelined in the final cut. In two deleted scenes, a scrapped subplot is revealed, involving the teenage Michael’s affair with a teacher, and how it led to the demise of his close relationship with Catherine. It’s a silly subplot, but it sure would’ve explained a lot.

‘Chloe’ is released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and stars Julianne Moore, Amanda Seyfried, Liam Neeson and Max Thieriot. It was written by Erin Cressida Wilson and directed by Atom Egoyan. It was released on July 13th, 2010. It is rated R. staff writer Matt Fagerholm

Staff Writer

rhouston's picture

I agree that the ending is,

I agree that the ending is, at best, movie of the week quality, but I strongly disagree with your take on Seyfried’s performance. Most critics have applauded her turn as Chloe, including many who gave the movie a negative review. I don’t know how it’s possible to not see the emotion in her eyes in every scene. She usually underplays her roles in order to avoid coming across as melodramatic, but there is a huge difference between underplaying and seeming lost. A less skilled actress would have turned in a soap opera quality performance and ruined the movie in the process.

She and Egoyan spent a year preparing for this movie, and Seyfried mentioned in an interview that she did far more prep and research for Chloe than any character she had played. Clearly she was not lost, and was well aware of who Chloe was and how to play her.

Most of the blame for the flaws in Chloe rest with Wilson, for once again failing to write a complete movie. Chloe is 90% well written, but fails at the end, and the script is to blame for that. Egoyan also deserves blame for not hiring a script doctor, or redoing the ending himself. He also should have kept the first deleted scene since it gave Chloe some much needed backstory, made her more sympathetic, and magnified what it meant for her to go after the son later in the movie.

During the commentary, I wanted Egoyan to STFU at several points to let Seyfried and Wilson get a word or two in. He did seem to realize he was talking too much and made a point of getting Seyfried and Wilson to talk later in the commentary. Egoyan and Wilson mentioning that various points in Chloe are open to interpretation doesn’t mean that they weren’t sure of what they were doing, they simply wanted viewers to feel free to use their imagination. As to Seyfried mentioning that Chloe is creepy, she is! How else would you describe that character, considering what she did in the movie? She described Chloe in the third person because she’s an actress, not the character herself. I’m not sure which person you think actors use when doing DVD commentaries. Seyfried has stated that she felt awkward on the first day of filming, but that she was treated as a peer(for the first time) and enjoyed filming the rest of the movie, so feeling “out of her element” wasn’t a problem for her.

I’m not sure how anyone could get a review this horribly wrong, but my guess is that you are the kind of person who needs everything in movies to be spelled out, and for actors to go way over the top so that you can clearly see which emotions they are expressing. I suggest that you stick with action and comic book movies.

knoll's picture

I disagree with..

Chloe might be weak due to its predictable and very rushed ending, however, I still find it to be really good and lingering at some point. But I have to disagree with you about Amanda Seyfried’s performance. Actually, I was very impressed by her. To be honest, I was in doubt of her at first (although I thought she’s a good actress) I did not think she could pull it off but to my surprise, she captured and interpreted her character very well and she did not overplay it to make it more realistic. I think if some other young actresses out there would play this, I really don’t think they could pull of a very powerful and gripping performance, instead, they would make it look annoying and over-reacting like those can be seen in soap operas.
I felt pity and sympathy for her character. Maybe you would feel the same if you don’t see her character superficially because Chloe is a complex character, but her perception and delivery is spot on and I believed her as Chloe! She could fill all the quiet gaps with her expressive face and eyes, body language; also with just her silent but enchanting and eerie presence. I could truly feel her brokenness, emptiness, confusions; longings, desperation, and (all the) needs for true love, security, care, and acceptance. And how she played 3 personalities in one character mysteriously, without revealing it all at once but layer-by-layer is quite extraordinary.
After watching Chloe, I thought of watching her other films. The only film I saw of her was her small role in Alpha Dog and Mamma Mia! So, yes, I am very impressed of her to think that she was able to level herself with Moore’s performance.

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