Here’s the plotline for Atom Egoyan’s latest flick straight from the IMDB:
“A doctor hires an escort to seduce her husband, whom she suspects of cheating, though unforeseen events put the family in danger.”
Yup, that’s about all you need to know going into this thing. The doctor is played by Julianne Moore (stunning), the husband is Liam Neeson (lifeless), and the escort is Amanda Seyfried (all googly-eyed and flippantly seductive). If you’re a fan of Egoyan, you know he’s going to direct this thing to the nines, dress it up in beautiful cinematography and camera angles (Toronto and Julianne Moore never looked better…and let’s not even go there with Amanda Seyfried) and not even care that he didn’t have anything to do with the screenplay (by Erin Cressida Wilson, remaking the French film Nathalie). The film somehow manages to be both totally French (in plot) and totally Canadian (in setting, all cold and modern, eh), a nifty little trick that only Egoyan could pull off. The whole thing is pretty preposterous, but you can’t help but be entertained, and it’s far more engaging than the last time Egoyan was hired to do an artsy piece of trash, Where the Truth Lies.
Egoyan is the third stone-cold auteur to do a riff on the Hitchcockian thriller this year following Scorsese’s Shutter Island and Polanski’s The Ghost Writer — both far superior films. Though admittedly Chloe is closer to Adriane Lyne than Hitchcock, one with a keen eye can see where Egoyan was trying to go with this, and the result is his most “commercial” feeling film ever.
It’s been frustrating to watch the arc of Egoyan’s career. He hit is peak in the ’90’s with Exotica and The Sweet Hereafter (the best film of the decade) and has had diminishing returns since then on his auteur pieces (Ararat and Adoration). Whenever a studio calls on him to art-up some hack job (like here with Chloe or earlier with Where the Truth Lies), it seems as if they only looked at the misleadingly “soft-core” DVD cover-art for Exotica instead of watching the film (which is a superb puzzle-box melodrama) and got the wrong idea about Egoyan. I’m not so sure he’s the right man to revive the perhaps un-revivable “erotic thriller” genre, but he certainly likes playing those head games with the studio bosses and his audience.
But, please, would the real Atom Egoyan come back to us? Chloe is a quasi-interesting spin on the old Fatal Attraction story, but I know Egoyan can do better. Though these trifles are enjoyable on some level, it seems to me his once amazing career has passed on into the sweet hereafter. Perhaps someone needs to hold a séance to get back in touch with the departed Egoyan, though I fear in the words of Fiona Apple (an uber-talented singer-songwriter with a somewhat similar career arc as Egoyan and who somewhat looks like Seyfried), “it won’t do no good to hold no séance.”
Written by David H. Schleicher
I’m kicking this one off by asking readers and bloggers to rank Egoyan’s films. Here’s my rundown:
The Sweet Hereafter – 10/10
Exotica – 9/10
Ararat – 8/10
Adoration – 7/10
Chloe – 6.5/10
The Adjuster – 6/10
Felicia’s Journey – 6/10
Where the Truth Lies – 5/10
Yes, the story is indeed preposterous, but yes, I quite agree it’s still entertaining, and the acting is quite good. I gave it 3/5, which is pretty much the same as you give it here.
The Sweet Hereafter 10/10
Felicia’s Journey 7/10
Where the Truth Lies 5/10
I haven’t yet seen THE ADJUSTER or ADORATION, but hope to soon.
Sam, I’d like to hear your thoughts on Adoration once you see it. It’s a thinkpiece for sure. –DHS
I have only seen three of Egoyan films and have to say that THE SWEET HEARAFTER is a masterpiece, an elegantly filmed work and far superior to both CHLOE and WHERE THE TRUTH LIES. I do need to seek out more of his work.
Perhaps with CHLOE if he had strayed closer to Hitchcock than Lynne he would have made a better film, like Scorsese and Polanski. Still, it has been a great year, so far, when filmgoers are lucky enough to get new works from three filmmakers of this caliber within a couple of months of each other.
John, you should definitely check out Exotica and Ararat. I agree, this has been one of the stronger starts to a year in film in recent memory thanks to the these directors. –DHS