When Chloe opens with those shots of Amanda Seyfried as she ensues in her monologue of sorts, Atom Egoyan gives us the impression that what follows will be an exposé (of sorts) on this woman and her life. Chloe is not such a film, I can’t pretend that any apprehensions I have about the film derive from the opening, but in assessing why Chloe left me somewhat cold I couldn’t help but revert to the beginning which had me anticipating something completely different from what ensues. In fact, at the end the first thing I wondered was – How did the beginning enhance the film?
Despite its name, Chloe is the study of a marriage. Catherine and David, played credibly by Julianne Moore and Liam Neeson are a marriage couple. She’s getting old and worried about her age, he’s getting old and more flirtatious (but still chaste, we can assume). A provocative image on his phone when he misses a party leads Catherine to hire the eponymous Chloe to seduce her husband and report the results. It’s a fairly simple story, a pedestrian one even. This can only end one way for us to have a movie – he sleeps with her and tragedy ensues (I’m well aware of the deception in this statement). In this way Chloe depends on a twist that’s not really a twist, but my issue is not even with the twist. Egoyar crafts a film that’s beautifully shot, the writing is fair even though it’s unexceptional and it’s not so much that the denouement of it falls flat, but the viewer is left with the question – so what? This is, essentially, my issue with Chloe. I’ve never seen the original, and cannot comment on if Chloe is a misrepresentation of it. I remember chuckling to myself when I heard the name of the director, how could I take such a name seriously? It’s the same issue I have with Chloe. At face value it’s the study of a marriage that ultimately is saved, but with cracks in it (that final shot of Julianne). Nothing more, nothing less. But the story is one devoid of any individuality, and the very title (and that telling opening) has me rethinking it.
SPOILERS: Be warned!!!
The film opens as we watch Seyfried in moments of undress as she narrates over the film. It’s a poor opening, I think, in context at least. It’s significant that this is the only narration in the film, opening or otherwise. What’s more, Chloe is obviously not the main character of the film, so why begin with her in a state of pseudo-omniscient. Is the opening even chronologically related to the film? A crazy thought occurs to me, is Chloe even dead? Obviously she is; the maimed body alone is proof. But Chloe being alive is the only way that the film’s beginning makes sense. And since it’s obvious that she is dead Egoyan’s Chloe falls flat. Or if not, I was waiting for a moment of absolution when we’d realise that Liam’s David was just the consummate actor and did have an affair with Chloe. But alas, no such twist. It’s fine to look at and completely diverting but as I gain a little distance I also gain some perspective. It’s been a full week now and Chloe’s significance seems stark. Technically, it’s adequate but Egoyan seems to have no argument to put forward behind the pretty shots…or if he does, it completely eludes me.