Cold. Julianne Moore is cold. Not just in the physical sense - I mean, it is pretty chilly in Toronto, but she's also cold in the more figurative sense. She's cold like the smooth white surfaces of her doctor's office, like the spotless glass walls of her house, like the frosty, uncommunicative marriage she's in. A-ha! The crux of the matter. Catherine doesn't trust her husband David (Liam Neeson), what with him being the tall, handsome, smooth-talking lecturer he is, so she hires a glamourous prostitute she's noticed to test his fidelity for good. But Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) gives Catherine more than she'd planned to pay for.
A vague plot synopsis, like the one found in the film festival's literature, makes Chloe's icy erotica seem coyly alluring. A full plot synopsis might reveal the more tawdry aspects of the film, but what delight there is within Atom Egoyan's latest may well remain within the unfolding, so I'll keep as mum as I can manage. But something doesn't feel right from the start. You can film a cold place but it takes something more to make the film cold itself - and Chloe is too heavily photographed, too close to really appropriate that at all. There's no law that says a film set in Canadian winter has to send chills down the back of your spine, but what Chloe's atmosphere is instead is just a bit vulgar and melodramatic. The music is all swelling piano dramatics, the generic atmosphere a stilted, canned laughter type of place... it's a good thing we've got some nudity to spice things up, really.
No, but Moore and Seyfried aren't bad, exactly - a shame in a way, since this has the elements to make it a fantastically bad picture, but it settles for being merely 'not very good' - and the way events play out between them is certainly the most intriguing and interesting aspect of the film. Moore has never been afraid of exploring aspects of a woman's sexuality - despite continually swearing she'll never do it again, she insisted at the press conference - and here she nicely plays the arc of a woman fighting growing older and rediscovering the sensuality that had been buried beneath routine and disconnection. Seyfried is the bigger revelation, though, with a performance that, before the film takes a strong turn for the brainless, is intriguingly coy about who this woman is and what she wants, and more than anything proves that this is a young woman with incredible charisma. The film is, in as much as its psychological aspects end up making any sense at all, about figurative visibility - Catherine feels like she's faded with age, her husband 'doesn't see her'. More interesting is Chloe - does her profession give people licence to view her as a sexual object, or a purchase?
It's a great shame that Chloe, while certainly no masterpiece before it slides into tawdry thriller territory (an aspect not present in the French film, Nathalie..., on which the film is based, and apparently something we can blame producer Ivan Reitman for), throws these promises of psychological insight down the drain. Perhaps it was inevitable - it is, potentially, Chloe's 'performance' that keeps us intrigued, wandering as she does between frankly sexual and coyly childlike, and the stripping back of all this leads to some ludicrous overdrama. Atom Egoyan can wax for as long as he wants about how this is an adult, complex psychological drama about 'human interaction' and 'mature relationships', but the truth will out - it's an erotic thriller with remnants of French intrigue that can't help overloading on inexplicable obsessive madness, blowing all subtle humanity to the wind. Or out the window. C-