Chloe opens Friday in select theaters (see “Now Playing” below)
As a poor man’s Poison Ivy (now there’s an unlikely formulation), Chloe is stock erotica gussied up with a top-shelf cast, name-brand director, soft-focus lighting and contemporary, often translucent set designs. Otherwise, it’s a Skinemax refugee whose art house aspirations cannot compensate for a hammy, surprisingly tepid script that is high on titillation but low on dramatic tension.
When Catherine (Julianne Moore), a Toronto-based gynecologist (shades of Dead Ringers, or Eyes Wide Shut, for that matter), suspects her husband, David (Liam Neeson), of cheating, frustration leads her to enlist the services of a call girl, Chloe (Amanda Seyfried), to seduce him and report back her findings. Chloe soon begins regaling Catherine with the lurid details of their trysts. Inevitably, the motives of Catherine and this doe-eyed Lolita become more complex and suspect.
Officially, the film is a remake of the 2004 French film, Nathalie…, which was written and directed by Anne Fontaine (Coco Before Chanel). It is also a return of sorts for director Atom Egoyan to the voyeuristic, sexual-thriller roots of his breakout film, Exotica. Likewise, screenwriterand former Duke professorErin Cressida Wilson rehashes the prurience found in the more interesting script she wrote for Secretary.
Aside from its well-worn plot points, little is done to develop the characters beyond the status of unpleasant, sexually and emotionally dysfunctional haute monde. In particular, the title character proves scarcely more than a tantalizing cipher whose motives are as unknown as they are obliquely insulting to women.
Ultimately, however, the storyline is one that begins benignly before turning trashy and, finally, just plain silly. Chloe is destined to be remembered by those sifting through the bargain bin at Blockbuster as “that movie where Julianne Moore and Amanda Seyfried get it on.”