What makes a good erotic thriller? The simplest method I’ve found is what I call “the giggle test.” If either or both the dramatic and sexually-charged scenes of a movie make you giggle (or groan), it fails the test. An erotic thriller that makes you guffaw uncontrollably may become a cult classic (see Showgirls), but a slight giggle or two means only mild amusement at best (and only at the expense of those onscreen). Chloe doesn’t pass the test.
One might expect, given the cast at his disposal and experience in this genre, that director Atom Egoyan (Where the Truth Lies, Exotica) is fully capable of adapting the French erotic thriller Nathalie… for American audiences. One would be wrong.
The premise is simple, though hardly original. Jealous, possibly unstable, housewife Catherine (Julianne Moore) suspects her husband (Liam Neeson) of having an affair. Her chance encounter with a young prostitute named Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) leads Catherine to come up with a genius plan to learn the truth. She will pay Chloe to attempt to seduce her husband.
Well, I can’t see anything that could possibly go wrong with a plan so genius it’s the plot for 20 percent of the late night movies on Skinemax. Anyway…
Thrown into the mix is Catherine’s estranged and troubled son (Max Thieriot). We are never given a reason for his behavior, but that’s okay because it (along with other disappearing and reappearing traits of other characters) comes and goes as the script calls for.
The affair itself is told completely from Chloe’s perspective. She relays the events to Catherine in a Penthouse Letters kind of way. Catherine becomes either crushed or turned on (as determined randomly by the inconsistent writing of individual scenes).
The structure suggests one of the film’s many twists, but in an attempt to keep the audience guessing, the script continually throws contrivances in your path. And to keep the insanity going, each twist is forced to become more outlandish than the last. For example, in the one instance where clarity should be given to a character allowing the plot to naturally move forward in a new direction, instead it leads to a remarkably puzzling choice and series of events that defy even the loosest definition of logic. (Sorry to be so vague, but non-spoiler reviews are a bitch sometimes.)
Chloe is helped by three strong leading performances, but they can raise the bar of this unimaginative sleaze only so far. Saddled with an increasingly ridiculous script, the cast and director do what they can, but there’s no saving this sinking ship.
I can only assume Egoyan and everyone involved took this as an opportunity to try and raise a dreadfully bland project to another level – to both titillate and entertain as well as provide opportunities for each actor to bring something special to the project. Sadly, my only real reaction was how embarrassed I felt for every single person involved.
Chloe isn’t a good erotic thriller. It’s not even a fun movie because it can’t find a way to enjoy the insanity it creates with every line of dialogue. The only message of the film seems to be that love and sex are messy. But if that’s the case, why does the film’s ending tie up all the insanity into a neat package with a bow on top?
The film is neither erotic nor thrilling. Except for some genuinely good acting from Seyfried and strong performances by both Moore and Neeson, there’s almost nothing of here of note (other than the obvious sex scenes some might seek out). Save yourself some time and money and wait for this one to find it’s way to late night paid cable where it will undoubtedly be welcomed with open arms.