Gynaecologist Catherine (Julianne Moore – Magnolia, Mockingjay) believes college professor husband David (Liam Neeson – Taken, The Grey) is having affairs with his students. So she hires up-market call-girl (aren’t they all) Chloe (Amanda Seyfried – In Time, Red Riding Hood) to see if he falls to temptation. Like you do. But Chloe develops an obsession with Catherine.
Respected and prolific art-house director Atom Egoyan (Erotica, The Captive) remakes French erotic thriller Nathalie, and despite stellar performances from Moore and Seyfried, the whole preposterous melodrama collapses under French bourgeois angst.
Instead of a grown-up portrait of a marriage suffering the breakdown of communication and intimacy, what we get is a warmed-over, ’80’s, soft-focus ‘erotic thriller’. It’s hard to sympathise with the first-world dissatisfaction of an over-privileged, middle-class professional couple with more money than sense, living in well-off Toronto, especially given the ludicrous modernist designer house they own – which often up-stages the actors themselves. I just kept thinking people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.
Somebody should tell Moore’s highly intelligent medic to pull herself together, have a stand-up row with her husband, clear the air and either put up or shut up. Instead, she goes through the ridiculous plot device of hiring brittle and quite obviously off-her-rocker prostitute Chloe, whom we know from the first frame is going to be an unreliable witness to the anticipated Fatal Attraction ending.
Except this is an art movie and Chloe doesn’t play that way.
Barely-erotic, but for an exploitative lesbian scene straight out of a Brian de Palma ’80’s noir, and barely-thrilling, despite Seyfried’s machinations, fantasies, half-truths and sudden appearances in unexpected places, this tries and fails to live up to the poster.
Chloe attempts to shock with the idea that Chloe could sleep with the husband, the wife and the cute but spoilt, frankly gormless, teenage son (a two dimensional Max Thierriot).
Neeson’s badly weathered Mt. Rushmore face occasionally contorts into a parody of constipated suffering, but otherwise he’s a leaden presence.
So all the chemistry is generated by mesmeric Moore and sensual Seyfried, whose May-to-December lesbian tryst, rejection and betrayal is the layered heart of a bold but daft movie, and the sole reason for sticking ith it.
As ever, the highly awarded, intellectual film-maker Egoyan plays with the disjunct between truth, lies, fantasy, reality, obsession and self-destruction. Vain, vague, weak and self-contradictory characters moodle about unhappily in a parody of both Egoyan’s own pictures and of the sophisticated French cinema it envies so much.
Chloe cheats hugely in terms of unreliable narration and point of view and just can’t get past the central plot device, so no matter how hard the cast work, you just want to murmour at the screen “oh, please…” RC
Director: Atom Egoyan
Music composed by: Mychael Danna
Screenplay: Erin Cressida Wilson from Jacques Fieschi , Anne Fontaine , Philippe Blasband , François-Olivier Rousseau
Rating: R (for strong sexual content including graphic dialogue, nudity and language)
Genre: Mystery & Suspense , Drama
Running time: 1 hr. 39 min.
Cast: Julianne Moore, Amanda Seyfried, Liam Neeson, Max Thierriott
Related: Gone Girl (2014)