To paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, the Canucks, they are different from us Americans. Sure, they look like us, and they even sound like us mostly (except when they say "aboot" and "eh" — it’s like detecting Cylons). But despite similar street signs and our new social medicine plan, they live in an entirely different universe. At least, that’s how it seems when it comes to sex.
I’ve never quite grooved to Canadian director Atom Egoyan’s rhythms. His movies often seem preoccupied with sex, and even lurid sex, but they are as bland about it as maple syrup. How is it they make you feel dirty and bored? He crams his films with imagery and symbolism, but he’s both heavy-handed and visually lazy. It’s like he’s a thinking man’s pervert … and when it comes to sex, thinking has nuthin ta do with it.
In his latest film, Chloe, the sexual imagery begins early: A Toronto woman (Julianne Moore) is a gynecologist who has her hands in lady parts all day; she suspects her husband (Liam Neeson) of cheating on her. And why not? He lectures admiringly about Don Giovanni’s conquests, lies to his wife and comes onto every woman he sees.
But is it she who has the obsession with sex? When she hires a call girl, Chloe (Amanda Seyfried), to seduce her husband to test his fidelity, it leads her into a flirtation with lesbianism.
While it’s possible to appreciate the film’s sexual frankness (Republicans could loosen up at a screening), as well as the bravery of Moore’s performance — is there a better film actress today? — Chloe is a cheat of a film, one with twists that only work because the filmmaker withholds information and skews our perspective with misdirection. It also turns what purports to be a psychological drama into a cheesy "erotic thriller" of the most banal, 1980s, direct-to-video kind. All that’s missing is Shannon Tweed.
Rating: Two and a half stars
Opens today at the Angelika Mockingbird Station.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 26, 2010.