Chloe: Revisited (2010) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
19Jul/111

Chloe: Revisited (2010)

I reviewed Chloe for this site almost a year ago.  If you want a plot synopsis please revisit my earlier review, because I will be looking a the film in a different light as part of my set of articles on Atom Egoyan.

Andrew COMMENTARYIf there's one thing that I've learned looking at Atom Egoyan's movies it's that the man does not work up to his full potential when he is backed by a major studio.  Chloe was poised to be an erotic breakout hit, a film blending sex and Egoyan's particular brand of auteurism into a viable package for both crowds.  But, as the case goes, when you try to make a movie for everyone you make a movie for no one.

Revisiting Chloe I don't think that this movie was made for no one but watched in close proximity to Exotica or Adoration it's attempts at formulating a concept of desire unique to this film feel a bit more strained.  It's in part because of the genre.  The erotic thriller is very difficult to pull off because our desires are very funny.  They're almost all required to have a tinge of danger, like the master Bertolucci's Last Tango In Paris or The Dreamers, in order to make all the sex and temptation seem realistically palpable.

But Chloe is trying to do something different.  That it can't entirely escape from the long shadow of those two great films isn't necessarily it's own fault, but I can't help but think of the private apartment in Tango when I'm looking at Chloe and Catherine rendezvousing in her room for a private chat about Chloe's supposed seduction of Catherine's husband David.  I say supposed because Egoyan's film is more about the seductive realities that we construct for ourselves in order to deal with our sexual dissatisfaction.  Tango was about a broken man and an adventurous woman coming together to share something private away from their lives.

The ritual. Don't like who you are right now? Go into the bathroom and with a few adjustments you can come out a completely different person.

Chloe never seduced David, this is one of the films saving graces.  Egoyan doesn't bend time or reality nearly as much, which leads me to the question of who is the film really taking place from?  In my original review I thought it was all Chloe, but the only scene that belongs to her is in the very beginning when she talks about what she needs to do to become what the customer desires.  The rest of the film takes place entirely from Catherine's perspective.

Yes, it's Chloe's loneliness (achingly touched on in that opening monologue) that nudges Catherine in the right direction but it's Catherine's desire for youth and to experience whatever it is that causes her husband to flirt with so many women.  Catherine is the one who visualizes Chloe's stories for us, and it's Catherine's sexual gratification that comes to full fruition over the events of the film.  One way to view the story is of how Catherine becomes so obsessed with proving that David is cheating on her that she constructs a fantasy living out what David is supposed to be doing, imagining that she is living vicariously with her husband through her liasons with Chloe.

But what of the other perspectives?  There are a few key scenes that touch on Catherine being the villain of the piece and ask us to look at the events of the film through the eyes of the other characters.  To look at it from Chloe's perspective she thought that she had finally found someone that she could be herself around, never-mind the stories that she tells of David, and how Catherine used her as another commodity.  Even the picture Chloe takes of the two of them, creepy from Catherine's viewpoint, is not nearly as much so when we look at it from Chloe's perspective.  I've had lovers that took pictures of me as I slept, it's just the air of infidelity and realization that it is her, not her husband, sleeping with Chloe that fills the pictures with guilt and eventual danger.

Chloe may be manipulating Catherine to a degree, but Catherine is not ignorant of what's going on and stages the stories with Chloe as her prop.

There are two other plot threads woven together that make for another interesting vantage point.  There's the son, aching for contact with someone beyond the internet and occasional sex, who is not blind to the marital issues his mom and dad are having.  From this view, the movie is about a confused man trying to come to grips with his own sexuality while his mother disappears into the night and his father is left sitting alone listening to his son play piano.  From the dad's viewpoint it's much the same, catching a whiff of Chloe's perfume on Catherine and thinking that it's for him, when really it's just Catherine fulfilling her own wish.

What Egoyan is trying to do with Chloe is humanize the erotic thriller to a certain degree.  The standard issue story (Fatal Attraction for one) is just of a libido gone horribly awry and catching someone in a web of murder and sex.  Egoyan is not one to judge, there is no real villain in Chloe much like his other movies, but Catherine's actions demand a reckoning that Chloe, that poor girl, pays for in the end.

Still, much like Where The Truth Lies, there's something holding back the production.  While that film had the taint of unnecessary voice-over and questionable casting choices, it bathed itself in the lurid pulp.  Chloe keeps us at too much of an arms length away, which reframes the story from Chloe to Catherine, but denies us the cathartic moment that Egoyan is so great at.

In one sense a violation of intimacy and in another a validation of it.

Catherine's actions are so duplicitous that it begs for a scene beyond the "I think he's cheating on me" moment we get.  There's a lot to infer, but there are too many shots of people wandering dreamily down halls or into hotels for those few moments of honesty to take hold and resonate.  It's a film with a strange amount of padding and not nearly enough pathos, content on a somewhat dissatisfying, though still wonderfully questioning, final shot where we see where Catherine's emotions were really directed.

It's all too simplistic.  Egoyan is much too talented a filmmaker to leave things as plainly spoken as in a Fatal Attraction, but there's not enough at stake to raise it to the level of his earlier Exotica or Tango.  He's playing it safe at the direction of the studios that hired him to make this movie.  It's enigmatic, yes, but unfulfilling because of what he's capable of.

In the right mood I'm sure to return to Chloe.  Amanda Seyfried is absolutely stunning in the role and there's enough sexual menace to make the return trip worthwhile.  But I hope for Egoyan's sake the next film he is hired to direct allows him free reign over the material.  I don't want awkward confrontations on the stairs, I want the characters to really peer into their desires and question what they find.  That does not happen in Chloe, and we're left with a finely polished product that bears none of the troubled psyches that create it.

Next week I'll be looking at the long delayed Felicia's Journey.  See you then.

Egoyan with text

Posted by Andrew

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  1. If this Felicia’s Journey film actually exists (I’m sure it doesn’t), how does it fit in with the other movies set in Spider-man’s universe?


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