Archive for March 12th, 2010

Review: CHLOE

David (Liam Neeson) and Catherine (Julianne Moore) are a seemingly normal happy married couple.  Their son (Max Thieriot) doesn’t speak to his mother but that’s just standard teenage movie behaviour.  When David misses a flight and subsequently his own birthday party the cracks begin to show, it is clear the relationship is stale and Catherine suspects he is having an affair. A chance encounter with call girl Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) in a restaurant bathroom sets things in motion; Catherine employs Chloe to bump into David and see what happens as a sort of honey-trap.  After the encounter they meet up to discuss what happened.  Then things start to go wrong for Catherine.

It is impossible to review this movie without giving away at least some of the plot but if you have seen the trailer you will already know more than I will give away.  To call it an interesting twist on Fatal Attraction should give an idea without telling too much.  To make what is essentially an erotic thriller with a female central character and main supporting character you need two amazing actresses to get away with it.  Anyone who has seen any of Atom Egoyan’s previous films will know he has a great eye for casting and getting great performances from his actresses, take a look at Mia Kirshner in Exotica, (the always brilliant) Sarah Polley in The Sweet Hereafter and Elaine Cassidy in Felicia’s Journey.  In Chloe he has really outdone himself by casting two great actresses.  Julianne Moore will be 50 later this year (co-star Amanda Seyfried will be 25 on the same day) and is still gorgeous.  Here the entire film rests on her shoulders, it is a burden she carries with great ease, her performance manages to portray confident and sexy as well as vulnerable, confused and on edge, she does all in a believable way no easy job in a movie with something of a contrived plot.  Chloe is an even harder part to cast but Amanda Seyfried is perfect, In Jenifer’s Body she plays Megan Fox’s less sexy friend, the words Amanda Seyfried and less sexy don’t belong together in the same sentence as this movie proves.  As the plot develops we discover different sides to her personality, sometimes just from facial expressions, she manages more expression with her eyes than some actors manage with their whole body.  The male cast get less interesting parts and less screen time.  It has been well publicized that Liam Neeson had to leave the set following the accident that led to the tragic death of his wife Natasha Richardson, it isn’t clear if his part would have been larger if not for these events.

The film received a 15 certificate here in the UK; along with the gore in the recent horror movie Daybreakers (also rated 15) the sexual nature of this movie suggest a relaxation of attitudes at the BBFC. Their guidelines say “The film also contains breast and buttock nudity, as well as masked masturbation and sight of thrusting bodies during sex scenes. There is no strong detail, such as sight of genitals, during any such sequences.” I’m not suggesting it is particularly explicit film, it is more about sexual tension than sex but this would have been an 18 a few years ago.  It works best as a character study delving into issues of human nature and self perception.

The film is a remake of French thriller Nathalie (staring Fanny Ardant, Emmanuelle Béart and Gérard Depardieu), obviously it is a bit slicker and a bit more polished but unlike most American remakes it actually stands up well in comparison to the original.  This could be because it isn’t a product of Hollywood, interestingly it was independently funded in France and shot in Toronto, to its credit they don’t try and pass Toronto off as an American city. The band featured in the movie, Raised by Swans are also a real local up and coming indie band.  The film has received mixed reviews in the press, to criticise it for having an unbelievable premise is a cheep shot when not taken into context of the excellent execution.  The plot of most movies are either unbelievably contrived or just plain unbelievable.  Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian goes a step further and describes the move as having “irritating visual cheat involved in the way the plot is presented” I’m not sure if what he is referring to can be described as a “visual cheat” as it refers to a convention that went out the window years ago, the entire CSI TV franchise is built on what he calls a visual cheat.  It is true however the movie would be weakened if it didn’t use this device. 

The plot is a little thin in places and has the odd hole, with any other casting this movie would have found its way direct to DVD by now without ever gracing a cinema screen.  But given the often taught direction and the great acting this little movie, while not reinventing the erotic thriller reminds us that they aren’t all bad.

Three Stars out of Five.

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