Julianne Moore as Catherine Stewart
Liam Neeson as David Stewart
Amanda Seyfried as Chloe
Max Thieriot as Michael Stewart
R.H. Thomson as Frank
Nina Dobrev as Anna
Mishu Vellani as Receptionist
Julie Khaner as Bimsy
Laura DeCarteret as Alicia
Natalie Lisinska as Eliza
Tiffany Lyndall-Knight as Trina (as Tiffany Knight)
Meghan Heffern as Miranda
Rosalba Martinni as Maria
Directed by Atom Egoyan
Catherine Stewart (Julianne Moore) suspects her college professor husband David (Liam Neeson) has been cheating on her by sleeping with his students, so she hires a pretty young escort named Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) to try and seduce him to see if he falls to her sways. What Catherine gets instead is a tangled web of deceit as Chloe has her own plans for the couple.
Ever since he appeared on the independent film scene–it’s now been 26 years since his debut–Canada’s Atom Egoyan has shied away from the mainstream, only a few times delving into the thriller genre. With “Where the Truth Lies,” he channeled Hitchcock, but with “Chloe,” a remake of French film “Natalie” adapted from a script by Erin Cresida Wilson (“Secretary”), he taps into more modern thriller fare, particularly the erotic thrillers of the ’80s and ’90s.
When Liam Neeson’s David Stewart doesn’t return home as scheduled from a business trip, his wife Catherine (Julianne Moore) suspects he’s been sleeping with a student. Having met a beautiful young escort in a bar, she approaches her with a proposition: seduce her husband and tell her all the details. This plan quickly turns sour as Catherine becomes equally disgusted and fascinated with the explicit details Chloe shares about her encounters with her husband. Soon, Chloe gets herself more entangled into all aspects of Catherine’s life, showing up unexpected at her job, seducing her son (played by Max Thierot) and even making strong advances at Catherine herself.
Atom Egoyan is a terrific filmmaker, but he still hasn’t quite got the right formula for making movies that might appeal to widespread mainstream audiences, at least outside Europe and Canada, as parts of “Chloe” probably won’t play to the suburban and rural audiences that go see studio-based thrillers. What keeps it firmly in “Egoyanland” is the growing relationship between Catherine and Chloe that ultimately ends with the two of them in bed in an erotically-charged scene that might shock those familiar with Seyfried’s squeaky clean image.
The thriller aspect mainly comes into play in the last act as Chloe starts manipulating and playing mind games with Catherine, and that’s where the film’s “Fatal Attraction” influences become more evident, even as the movie starts feeling derivative. The Sapphic nature of the relationship between the mixed-up Chloe and the confused Catherine does keep things generally more interesting even when the film drags.
Once again, Egoyan has gotten amazing performances out of his cast. Moore is terrific, as is Seyfried, two generation of actresses really bringing their A-game to every scene together, and Egoyan’s camera just loves them and makes them both look amazing on screen. Liam Neeson unfortunately finds himself outnumbered but comes across better than he has in similar films like “The Other Man.” Thierot has a number of good scenes with Seyfried, as Catherine’s teen son finds his own connection with the enigmatic Chloe.
It’s hard to describe the film’s distinctively stylish look, but Egoyan is clearly a director with an eye for dressing up the sets and the actors to complement the visual aesthetic of the film. Every shot seems to have been crafted to perfection down to the tiniest detail with a much brighter and whiter look than we often see in thrillers compared to the normal shadowy noir that filmmakers tend to prefer. Egoyan’s regular composer Mychael Danna does a good job creating the proper mood but taking a different approach than “Where the Truth Lies.”
The Bottom Line:
With “Chloe,” Atom Egoyan dips his toe into the mainstream thriller pool and wades further into that territory than normal, but just stops short of fully submersing himself with a premise that probably would have been too strange for any major studio to greenlight. Still, he’s a talented visual filmmaker who gets fantastic performances from his actresses. Watching Seyfried come into her own as an actress going toe-to-toe with a powerhouse like Julianne Moore is thoroughly satisfying.