Atom Egoyan’s Chloe opens with Amanda Seyfried’s eponymous prostitute describing the precision with which she can manipulate a client. She can be your daughter. She can be your secretary. She can be your lover. And she can bring you to orgasm like nobody’s business.
The funny thing is, it’s not too far off from what Seyfried already does. Her last film was the weepie Dear John; her next, the lovey-dovey-looking Letters to Juliet; and she’ll tell those audiences exactly what they’ll want to hear. But right here, right now, she’s bound and determined to make you and me and Julianne Moore and Liam Neeson breathe a little heavier as she spins her stories of seduction.
Let me regress a bit: Moore thinks that Neeson is cheating on her and hires Seyfried to seduce him and report back. And the more that Seyfried talks about how heavy the petting and how erotic the climax, the more that Moore rubs her legs and bites her lip and loves vicariously through her. She gets off on hearing how Liam Neeson gets off, and how Amanda Seyfried can bring pleasure to him that Moore no longer can.
Julianne is essentially playing the audience surrogate in this tawdry little melodrama, and Seyfried is doing what she’s always been paid to do: telling us stories that we can’t experience for ourselves. Given Egoyan’s one-time knack for non-linear storytelling (it’s become more of a crutch lately) and fondness for deceit, such a straightforward affair invites a meta-contextual reading, some excuse for cranking out a Fatal Attraction knock-off like this.
He shoots it with a straight face, letting Toronto play Toronto and having the Stewart family live in one of those catalog-worthy homes that has more windows than walls (all the better to reveal secrets with) and just enough doors to slam dramatically (I like that Moore’s office has a see-through door - you can slam your door and play voyeur too!). The entire ensemble plays it with a straight face, even the lesbian antics, and hey, why wouldn’t they? These are Oscar nominees after all.
This is what we’ve paid to see: not just soft-core shenanigans, but soft-core shenanigans with actors of some class. And the woman behind me, she gets to go tut-tut-tut every time someone does something naughty (which is often). And the guy in front of me, he gets to slump down a bit once Moore and Seyfried lock lips (often enough).
Every movie is an exercise in manipulation. Many would accuse Egoyan’s films of late to be more akin of masturbation. At least this time, I’d like to think that the feeling is mutual.
William Goss lives in Orlando, Florida. But don’t hold that against him.