Chloe for One

"Um, excuse me, but there's this Canadian out there who wants us to star in his film."

 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 LiesContinue reading

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Revisiting The Sweet Hereafter – The Best Film of the 1990’s

There is no such thing as a simple list.

The 1990’s proved to be as ponderous as it was wondrous when looking back on its contributions to cinema.  It was the decade where I came of age as a film buff, but many of its films that seemed at the time to speak so strongly to my generation just haven’t held up that well to scrutiny as years have passed.  It was a decade that saw one of the most original filmmakers of the 1980’s, David Lynch, do his most astounding work on television with Twin Peaks.  In film, the Coen Brothers hit their stride while a contemplative Canuck (Atom Egoyan) and an insane Dane (Lars Von Trier) reached career pinnacles.  Meanwhile, emerging from the British Isles were the classically refined works of Anthony Minghella and Sam Mendes.  But it was in the Coen Brothers’ America where many saw a mini-Renaissance.  Unlike the 1970’s, which produced a plethora of auteurs (Scorsese, Spielberg, De Palma, Coppola, Lucas) who were birthed in formal film schools, the 1990’s saw the emergence of a new generation of auteurs (Tarantino, PT Anderson, Fincher, Spike Jonze) who developed their styles first by working in music videos or by being products of their own self-guided fan-boy obsessed film clubs after dropping out of film school. Continue reading

The Summer of War

Superfluous slasher sequels and Labor Day mean one thing for filmgoers: the long summer movie season is finally coming to a close.  Though I did my fair share of grumbling and there were alarmingly more “Colon: Movies” than ever before, the summer of 2009 ended up being a fairly solid season.  The year as a whole has been eerily reminiscent of 1999 in that there have been a slew of top-of-the-line “niche” films and both art-house and multiplex offerings have been more thoughtful than usual by delivering subtext and social commentary with their cliches, laughter, violence and gore.  Whether any of these films will matter ten years from now is hard to tell.  Looking back on the summer trends, I think I’ll always remember this 2009 season as the summer Hollywood went to war. Continue reading

A Review of Atom Egoyan’s “Adoration”

Devon Bostick and Scott Speedman wonder if they'll serve cheese and wine after all this violin playing.

Devon Bostick and Scott Speedman wonder if they'll serve cheese and wine after all this violin playing.

Interesting Dramatic Experiment
7/10
Author: David H. Schleicher

A teenager (Devon Bostick) who was orphaned after the tragic deaths of his parents is prompted by his teacher (Arsinee Khanjian) to deliver a fictional monologue about his father’s failed terrorist act as fact in an elaborate “dramatic exercise” in Armenian-Canadian auteur Atom Egoyan’s latest thought-provoking piece of abstraction Adoration.  As the fiction spins out of control over the internet, the true motives of those involved in the lie are revealed and back-stories come collapsing in on each other in Egoyan’s signature elliptical style.

Egoyan, as always, gives patient viewers plenty to chew on. Like the young man’s monologue that marries a true story to a false one about his parents, Adoration itself is an interesting dramatic experiment designed to provoke. It tackles many issues including the motives of terrorists, fractured familial relationships, the hollowness of alleged connections made through modern technology and the dangers of thinking those connections can replace real face-to-face human interaction. Though I always question Egoyan’s motive in casting his wife Arsinee Khanjian in his films, in many ways, she gives her most understated and powerful performance here. Bostick does a decent job with a tough role, though Rachel Blanchard is curiously flat in the flashbacks as his mother. The true revelation is Scott Speedman as the troubled tow-truck driver who reluctantly steps in to raise his sister’s son after she dies. His story arc proves to be the most involving, though one wishes his background had been more developed.

The bizarre detour into sleazy mediocrity with Where the Truth Lies seems to have made Egoyan a little rusty as he returns to a more familiar form here for those who have been watching the arc of his career. The elliptical folding in of the converging plot lines seems clumsier in Adoration than it did in his earlier works, and the “big reveal” comes a few scenes too early and sucks out the emotional impact. Unlike Exotica which had the swagger of a young auteur at the top of his game, or The Sweet Hereafter which came from the sublime source material of novelist Russell Banks, Adoration represents Egoyan bruised from years of wear left to his own devices. Though compelling, he gets the best of himself and let’s the ideas take over the characters. He also relies far too much on visuals of non-characters in chat rooms or of people being recorded with cameras. However, Egoyan scores when Mychael Danna lends his musical compositions. The frequent collaborator does a magnificent job creating a haunting score with a recurring violin motif that plays integral to one of the back-stories.

Back in the late 1990’s Atom Egoyan was in a league of his own and master of his own style. In the past ten years, however, international cinema has seen the emergence of filmmakers like Mexico’s Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu (Amores Perros, 21 Grams and Babel) and Germany’s Fatih Akin (whose superb The Edge of Heaven deserved a bigger audience stateside last year). They often tackle similar themes in an elliptical Egoyanesque manner.  But because their films are presented on a larger scale and infused with a certain energy and immediacy, Egoyan’s films, in all their isolated scholarly austerity, have been unfairly left out in the cold.   Adoration  may not be Egoyan’s best, but it proves he still has some good ideas in him and he isn’t ready to be dismissed just yet.

Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database.

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Check out my reviews of other Egoyan films:

Exotica (1994)

The Sweet Hereafter (1997)

Ararat (2002)

Where the Truth Lies (2005)