Chloe (2010) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Chloe (2010)

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ANDREW LIKEShe has to become whatever it is that you desire.  The hair has to be perfect, the laugh on the right pitch, the thought process what you would expect from the dream.  Because that's what she's paid to do, be exactly what you want her to be, then to disappear completely into another role.  Her function isn't that different from an actor, but instead of international renown she just has the next job.  It's not a completely thankless gig, and she picks up a few tricks here and there - so what happens when she desires something for herself?

Atom Egoyan introduces Chloe as she details her routine and procedure for figuring out what her clients want.  It's the first and only time we'll get inside her head as she prepares for a job and gets dressed appropriately.   The rest of the time we'll just watch as she enters the life of a couple that has flat lined.  Neither one knows what they want anymore, and neither one of them are brave enough to try and guess and what boils beneath their calm exteriors.

Chloe is a sort of return to form for Atom Egoyan.  His films have long dealt with the space that sexual identity and desire has in this modern age of technology.  So much human contact has been replaced with machines that it's difficult to tell where the acting really begins, and what we really desire.  Do you want to be watched?  Maybe you just want to get off the thrill of anonymity, or the possibility that everyone might find out about your fetish.  Then broadcast it over the internet.  Perhaps.

But while the collision of technology and sex form the framework of his movies, they're usually not his subject.  He observes these desires, and puts the audience in a situation to figure out what, exactly, they are getting out of this arrangement.  His three subjects in Chloe are in the process of working this out themselves, and might have been happier if they were brave enough to accept the truth.  But for now, we'll deal with them in their malaise, and see why Chloe is so intertwined with all of them.

Julianne Moore and Liam Neeson play the unfortunate couple, Catherine and David Stewart.  Catherine finds an incriminating photo on her husbands phone and suspects that he's having an affair.  So her thoughts begin to drift to the elegantly dressed woman she saw the night before, how all her friends thought she was a call girl, and how she might find out the truth about what's going on with David.  So Catherine approaches Chloe and enters into an arrangement with her - approach David, try and flirt with him to start a relationship, and report back to me.

Catherine isn't interested in just the truth she wants to know everything.  Where her hand went, what he said, how he touched her, what he tasted like, not a single exception.  She becomes obsessed, but the real question is where her obsession lies.  It becomes clear that she gets a little thrill every time she is near Chloe, and become noticeably aroused when the stories are told, but what Catherine is getting from this arrangement remains a mystery.  When she recalls a story, Catherine's face melds over David's, and we have to wonder where Catherine is in the fantasy.  Is she getting a thrill at the thought of watching her husband, or does she wish that she could be with Chloe instead?

And what of Chloe, what does she get out of all of this?  Well, she gets paid, that much is obvious.  But is she really telling the full truth out of each encounter?  What is she holding back from Catherine?  Did she finally find something she wants?  What is difficult to find out is where Chloe's performance begins and where the "real" core of her ends.  She's in the business of wish fulfillment, and we have no idea what steps she will take to fulfill her own wants.

All of these questions are fascinating as Catherine and Chloe grow closer while David and Catherine only share moments through their son.  Egoyan films all of this with his usual sense of erotic anticipation.  Sex isn't always a joyful thing in his world, sometimes it's used to cover up pain, or just as a way to pass the time, or to pretend that your partner is someone that is long gone.  His style suggests all of these things, and when Chloe and Catherine meet for the first time the room is bathed in deep reds and browns, the soundtrack suggesting pleasure but hinting at all the psychological implications that go with it.

I was initially dissatisfied with the ending.  It felt strangely conventional compared to the languorous pace that Egoyan had set up previously.  Then I pondered the details, the one accessory that Chloe focused on the whole film, and the implications of it's inclusion in any scene not involving her.  Then the full impact of the closing scenes came in, and I had to admit that as conventional as it may have seemed, it's payoff was anything but.

Egoyan's films aren't as widely known amongst cineastes and American audiences.  This is incredibly strange to me, as he has done nothing but deliver complex films about desire with every  new feature.  Chloe isn't in his high range of work, but it's a honest and insightful look at sexual wish fulfillment.  Movies this mature about sex just aren't made that often, so I'm grateful for any moment Egoyan can spare to analyze our libidos.

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Chloe (2010)

Directed by Atom Egoyan.
Written by Erin Cressida Wilson.
Starring Amanda Seyfried, Julianne Moore, and Liam Neeson.

Posted by Andrew

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