The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - Front Page - By John Bei­fuss

/ bei­fuss@com­mer­cialap­peal.com

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.

Rafy/Sony Pic­tures Clas­sics

Ju­lianne Moore (right) plays a gy­ne­col­o­gist who hires a pros­ti­tute (Amanda Seyfried, left) to se­duce her hus­band in “Chloe.”

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