'CHLOE': MYSTERY THRILLER WITHOUT THRILLS
> SEXUALLY CHARGED SUSPENSE EXPIRES IN DISAPPOINTING CLIMAX
LOOKING WAN AND betrayed yet still beautiful, Julianne Moore — her teeth clenched, her nerves on edge — contributes a wonderful lead performance to “Chloe,” a movie that evokes Hitchcock during its compelling first two acts before ultimately collapsing at the less-stealthy feet of Adrian Lyne, director of “Fatal Attraction” and “91/ Weeks.”
The movie is the work of intellectual Canadian auteur Atom Egoyan (“The Sweet Hereafter”), a specialist in chilly inscrutability who unfortunately doesn’t possess Lyne’s instinct for the thriller climax. Egoyan does handle the movie's erotic interludes with aplomb, however; these scenes are driven as much by dialogue as by action, which is perhaps appropriate since the participants are women.
Moore plays Catherine Stewart, a gynecologist who feels “invisible and old,” mainly because she is ignored by the two men who share her life and her “amazing” modernist home. Her son (Max Thieriot) is a budding classical pianist, with a therapist and a sleep-over girlfriend; her husband, David (Liam Neeson), is a handsome college professor who can’t stop flirting with attractive young women.
(Incidentally, Neeson was shooting “Chloe” when his wife, Natasha Richardson, was in a skiing accident; with show-must-go-on professionalism, he returned to the set after Richardson’s death.)
Suspecting David of infidelity, Catherine hires Chloe (Amanda Seyfried), a very young and pretty prostitute, to see if David is open to seduction. “I try to find something to love in everybody,” says the alternately naive and conniving Chloe, explaining how she is able to stomach her profession. “If I do it just right, I can become a living ... dream, and then I can just disappear.”
Shot in Toronto (the elegant cinematography is by longtime Egoyan collaborator Paul Sarossy), “Chloe” initially is more truly “Hitchcockian” than most of the mystery thrillers saddled with that overused adjective; its ideas of erotic attraction and sexual paranoia, guilt and retribution wouldn’t be out of place in a film by the Master of Suspense. But Egoyan and screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson (working from a 2003 French film called “Nathalie”) are unable to sustain the story’s surprise and smartness; the “shock” climax — possibly a commercial compromise (this is the rare film in which Egoyan doesn’t take a producer’s or writer’s credit) — seems silly. As it unfolds through Egoyan’s tasteful compositions, it’s about as scary as a scorpion immobilized within a decorative paperweight.
“Chloe” is playing exclusively at Malco’s Ridgeway Four.
Julianne Moore (right) plays a gynecologist who hires a prostitute (Amanda Seyfried, left) to seduce her husband in “Chloe.”