‘Chloe’: Erotic mystery emphasizes brains over bodies

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Thursday, March 25, 2010 3:08pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

“Chloe” doesn’t take place in the real world, even if the Toronto locations are authentic enough. This mildly twisty drama is more of a cerebral exercise, an erotic mystery that emphasizes the brain over other body parts.

Julianne Moore plays a gynecologist with grave suspicions about her vain husband (Liam Neeson). He flirts with every young woman he comes across, and his texting sessions with his students abruptly end whenever his wife enters the room.

So the doctor engages the services of a young professional, Chloe (Amanda Seyfried). She hires Chloe to flirt with her husband, just to see how far he’ll take it.

This sounds like the beginning of an old Doris Day/Rock Hudson movie, except here the outcome will not be a situation comedy, but a deadly serious game.

Like a sitcom, however, the set-up is entirely artificial. Despite Julianne Moore’s considerable talents for holding to the true core of any given character, it is difficult to believe that her doctor exists as anything other than an intellectual construct.

Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan (“The Sweet Hereafter”) is just the sort of director to deal with this kind of artificial, wholly symbolic situation; his academic style makes the material the opposite of the kind of trashy thriller “Chloe” could have been.

On the other hand, maybe it should have been that kind of trashy thriller. “Chloe” wants to score some thoughtful points, and there are a couple of conversations between wife and husband that were clearly penned by an intelligent writer (Erin Cressida Wilson, who wrote the script to the provocative “Secretary” a few years ago).

Along with Moore’s strong work, there’s the spectral presence of Amanda Seyfried, that eerie blonde from “Dear John” and “Mamma Mia!” Batting her huge eyes in all directions, Seyfried’s job is to keep us guessing about Chloe’s intent, which she does successfully enough.

But the basic problem is that the movie has more ideas than excitement. At times it seems embalmed.

“Chloe” is based on a 2003 French film called “Nathalie.” Which makes you wonder whether this kind of exercise simply works better when everybody’s speaking French.

“Chloe” (2 1/2 stars)

Atom Egoyan directs this academic exercise about a suspicious wife (Julianne Moore) setting a trap for her husband (Liam Neeson) in the form of a consort-for-hire (Amanda Seyfried). Moore brings her usual firm grip on a character, but the film’s approach is often a little too dry for its sometimes interesting material.

Rated: R for nudity, language, subject matter

Showing: Alderwood Mall, Meridian, Metro

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