Fatal Attraction, Match Point, and Mulholland Drive: three movies about obsession done right. Sadly, the new film Chloe doesn’t hold a candle to any of them. Though not an awful movie by any means, the flick gamely hobbles along on the crutches of cliches and predictability. Helmed by Atom Egoyan, Chloe presents the viewer with outlandish and at times obscene situations, but is saved by the excellent actresses Julianne Moore and Amanda Seyfried. The two women turn in such strong performances that whenever they share the screen, the movie ignites with passion and electricity.
Catherine Stewart (Moore) is a middle-aged gynecologist who has been married to her husband David (Liam Neeson), a college professor, for 20 years. When she discovers that he has blown off the birthday party she threw for him to go out drinking with a female student, she instantly suspects something more. After seeing a flirtatious text message from a student, she is infuriated when she catches David flirting with a waitress at dinner one night and flees to the bathroom, where she finds Chloe (Amanda Seyfried), a doe-eyed girl trying to hide her tears. Through some movie magic, Catherine discovers that Chloe is a prostitute and hires her to seduce her husband, in some perverse hope of catching David in the act. When she feels that things have been taken far enough, Catherine “fires” Chloe, but in a moment of anguish, winds up sleeping with her instead.
When she and David confront each other, the movie comes to a predictable but still disconcerting head. The remaining 15 minutes go by far too quickly (the first rumblings of suspense in the movie!) and the final scenes are jarring.
Egoyan made a wise choice by setting the film in Toronto, a city neither too big nor too suburban. This decision allows the movie to flow with a fast pace but also allows for slow, sincere moments. The only odd thing about the setting is the Stewart’s house, which looks like something straight out of Frank Lloyd Wright’s head. Also, Egoyan frames the house in such a way that the audience would be remiss not to notice the floor to ceiling windows, a key element of the movie’s intense conclusion.
Luckily, the scenes shared by Catherine and Chloe are moments in which the movie picks up. The two are powerhouse actresses who are masters of their craft. Moore is one of the greatest actresses of our time, and her role in Chloe is no exception. The best performance by far is that of Amanda Seyfried as Chloe. With her wide, innocent eyes and waifish stature, Seyfried initially comes off as naive and even stupid. As the movie progresses, it is terrifying to see the steely and calculating look she adopts. She is scarily good here, because it is especially shocking to see Karen from Mean Girls bare her vicious, vengeful teeth.
The script, written by Erin Cressida Wilson, is mainly stale and obscene. Even though Moore and Seyfried command the scenes they share, the rest of the movie flounders with uncomfortable silences and clunky dialogue. Neeson growls and mumbles his way through his barely-there appearances on screen. The movie begs far too many questions, like, “Why is Chloe so attached to Catherine?” and ,”Why did I pay $11 to see a psychological thriller with only 15 minutes of thrills?” That’s the main issue crippling the film: It doesn’t know whether it wants to be a thriller or a weepy drama. It tries to make its mind up too many times, leaving an awfully confused audience in its wake.
Chloe also sadly and almost uncomfortably begs the question, “Is there any Stewart family member Chloe won’t sleep with?” When the audience sees Chloe with David, it is absolutely believable because of his flirtatious ways, but when she and Catherine become intimate, it is forced and extremely gratuitous. The last straw is when she seduces Michael, Catherine’s son. The movie’s tagline is, “If the one you love was lying to you, how far would you go to find the truth?” In Chloe‘s case, the answer is “too far.”