Saturday, October 8, 2011

Nobody Knows Anybody, Not That Well...

I continue in my tradition of reviewing old films that nobody saw when they were current.

I find I see fewer and fewer films in the theater nowadays, instead grabbing things that seem intriguing when I pass through China. DVDs are cheap there, and I use this as a way of seeing things I'm unsure of rather than renting. For films I take a shine to, like Stieg Larsson's Dragon Tattoo Girl trilogy, I end up buying the real thing so I can get the special features and commentaries.

One of my recent Guangzhou acquisitions is Atom Egoyan's 2009 film Chloe. I only vaguely remember this being released in theaters early in 2010, and it probably never played in Appleton. Julianne Moore Plays Dr. Catherine Stewart, a gynecologist, and Liam Neeson her husband David, a music professor. They have a teenaged son (Max Thieriot) who is poised to graduate and leave home. Amanda Seyfried plays Chloe, a call girl whom Catherine watches from her office window working out of a high end club across the street. When Catherine becomes convinced her husband is having an affair, she approaches Chloe and hires her to place herself in the husband's field of vision, as it were, and report back. David's reaction to the approach of a beautiful young woman will, it is thought, reveal to Catherine his faithfulness (though she already sees flirtatiousness in David's every interaction with women, especially young ones).

I can't imagine anything going haywire with that scenario, no? And we wander in not knowing if there is solid ground beneath our feet. Is David really having an affair? Or could he really just be texting his students as he claims? Is he really losing interest in Catherine, or is he really as busy as he claims? Is Chloe the right tool for the job?

Is Chloe anything like what she appears and claims to be?

You get the picture, but maybe not completely, which is what is engaging here. I went in cold and was continually a bit surprised at how things turned. The film is quiet and tense and relatively slow-moving, and while the characters seem believable and the issues palpable, yet we don't really know what's going on. Not really. Julianne Moore plays what can only be described as a not very attractive person. She spends most of the film in a frazzled state, and we never really grasp whether she has her feet on the ground or not (though, to be fair, she is playing a woman whose marriage is, she fears, in jeopardy). Amanda Seyfried, whom I've not seen in anything before, is lovely as a quiet young woman of some intensity who seems to like her job. Or not. She has what seems like a settled core and a curious eye. Or not. (The camera seems to love her; we can say that with confidence.) Neeson, whose wife Miranda Richardson died during the filming, is in only about half the scenes and plays a perfect older man who still exudes a certain virility.

I've not seen any of Egoyan's other films, but this one is moody and atmospheric and engaging. I see the reviews of this were kind of all over the place, but it seems a worthy effort to me.

Grade: B

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