With a compelling and provocative screenplay from Secretary scribe Erin Cressida Wilson inspired by Coco Before Chanel and The Girl From Monaco director Anne Fontaine's 2003 work Nathalie, Canadian auteur Atom Egoyan debuts his first directorial effort for which he did not also complete the script via Chloe.
And much like Egoyan and Wilson, we quickly discover that our eponymous lead portrayed by Amanda Seyfried who was cast before her breakout smash hit Mamma Mia! also has quite a way with words as a high class escort who looks like she's stepped out of an old Veronica Lake film, perched on barstools at Toronto hotels to catch her next cash-only paycheck.
Yet while Chloe is traditionally chatted up by men and sometimes couples, it's rare indeed when a woman she'd had a brief encounter with as polite strangers conversing in a restroom shows up shortly thereafter not only willing to buy Chloe a glass of Chardonnay but also hire her to attempt to seduce her husband, whom the woman suspects has been cheating on her.
The mysterious client in question is the successful gynecologist Dr. Catherine Stewart (Julianne Moore in a role Wilson wrote with the actress in mind) who finds a trail of suspicious breadcrumbs surrounding her opera professor husband David (Liam Neeson). The evidence Catherine uncovers includes a purposely missed flight, a cell phone camera snapshot with one of his adoring coeds, his inclination to be friendly with female strangers to the level of flirtation and of course the way he'll suddenly close a chat box window on his computer whenever Catherine walks into his home office.
While she's had trouble in her relationship with her son who flaunts his sexuality and desire for freedom in front of her due to a disappointingly dropped subplot that you only discover in the Sony Blu-ray's deleted scenes, the threat that perhaps the other man in her life may be distancing himself from her as well sends Catherine reeling.
Accepting the good doctor's offer, Chloe “presents” herself to David in a series of encounters she shares in explicit detail with Catherine at local coffee houses or bars in the Toronto neighborhood. Although at first she shies away from certain aspects of Chloe's show-and-tell soon we realize that she may be finding some unique thrill in the arrangement whether it's in the manipulation, the eroticism of words and the images they call up, or in learning something completely new about a man whom she felt she understood better than anyone.
And admittedly Egoyan's film does begin to require a little more suspension of disbelief than perhaps we'd had in mind as a series of escalating plot twists are introduced including the dubious, voyeuristic first which is revealed in the spoiler-heavy trailer that may lose some of the audience for its slight leap in logic that seems designed to titillate more than make perfect narrative sense. However, if you're willing to meander along with the fledgling middle act, the payoff is well worth the patience that at times both the character of Chloe and the film requires.
Likewise it's destined to make you ruminate over everything you've just seen for at least the next twenty-four hours and perhaps cause you to share the movie with an unsuspecting friend or lover to see if they're just as taken in by the complicated web Wilson and Egoyan weave throughout.
Chloe, which looks breathtakingly luscious in this first rate Blu-ray transfer, takes the carnal love triangles cherished by Adrian Lyne and Paul Verhoeven into far more mature and intellectually demanding territory. Featuring a first rate turn by Seyfried who, up to this point I'd basically underrated given the roles that are usually sent her way, Chloe is similarly a work you don't want to pigeonhole as simply an erotic thriller going in from square one.
While again it won't probably sink in until long after the credits roll, Chloe has a lot to say about gender dynamics, trust, and the way that storytelling or more specifically words themselves can have as much of a profoundly stirring effect on an individual as the right clip in long hair left down to attract a woman's next client... or spouse.
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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.