“Chloe” Intense and Erotic at Times, But Misses the Mark

Atom Egoyan's latest erotic thriller, "Chloe," continues the director's tradition of pushing the envelope and more than a few buttons as he puts his characters through excruciating psychological torture for our consideration.

Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) is a young prostitute hired by well-to-do gynecologist Catherine Stewart (Julianne Moore) to test the fidelity of her husband. David Stewart (Liam Neeson) is a music professor who has given his wife ample reason for suspicion, what with his questionable text messages, missed appointments and eye for the ladies.

With all the characters drowning in secrets and lies, and trust in dangerously short supply, things go predictably pear-shaped. But Egoyan spends too much time getting his pieces in place before turning the screws.

Seyfried is outstanding as the high-priced call girl who inches further and further from stability as she insinuates herself more and more deeply into the lives of the Stewart family. Her doe eyes continue to widen as she endeavors to please everyone the best way she knows.

What’s wrong with Moore’s Catherine isn’t really her fault. She hits all the right notes: doting, jealous, aggrieved, scared, confused, aroused, repulsed, protective… But Egoyan’s pacing makes her performance feel discordant.

Neeson is a very minor character at the center of the drama, but he sells it. He’s a shameless “not me, never” horndog who thinks that making no bones about his naked flirtations make them OK.

Max Thieriot, who plays the Stewarts' son Michael, never really has a chance to succeed. There's so much talk about his troubles, so much tiptoeing around his supposedly fragile psyche, that we expect some dark reveal. Instead we see what is by all appearances a typically hormonal, self-involved, thoughtless teenager.

Much has been made of the sex scene between Seyfried and Moore -- in fact the two of them can't stop talking about it -- upon which the plot of the film pivots. Rest assured, it is vintage Egoyan, steamy and intimate. And Moore is to be commended for her courage in laying down naked next to a woman 25 years her junior (to the day) -- she acquits herself and her generation well.

The film works for a while as Egoyan lulls you into his trap, but he holds you there for too long, as his characters devolve into caricatures. Catherine appears to be a shrill, unsympathetic and impotent harpy, David a squirrely cad.  Worse still, the tricks and misdirection become obvious, transparent. “Chloe” is smart, sexy and bold at times, and features some fine acting, but it misses the mark.

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