When comes to erotic thriller, Atom Egoyan isn't particularly among the favorable candidates spring into mind. In fact, his movies are always cerebral and clinical, regardless what kind of genre he was given to be accomplished of. Movies that touches on the explicit issue of sex, love, obsession and nudity are actually nothing new for Egoyan in which he has previously helmed genre of such in 1994's EXOTICA and 2005's WHERE THE TRUTH LIES. In his latest movie here, his Americanized reinvisioning of 2003's French-language NATHALIE (which re-titled as CHLOE) is an exciting erotic thriller blessed with provocative themes of insecurities, sex and obsession and coupled with a line of top-flight casts. It's also a sleekly-mounted picture so lurid and beautiful you just can't simply take your eyes off the screen. Those are just part of the glossy style that plays so well on its surface that it's quite sad that same cannot be said for the overall of this movie. CHLOE is the kind of movie that could have been better, but Atom Egoyan and Erin Cressida Wilson's adapted screenplay manage only to reach a half-baked point and stays there.
When music professor husband David (Liam Nesson) misses his night flight back home, his gynecologist wife Catherine (Julianne Moore) is very upset of him for not making it for the surprise birthday party she had been organized for quite some time. The following morning, she discovers a text message sent to David by one of his students that proves he was lying about why he was late after all. She starts to suspect David must have been having an affair and she wants to find out about it. And so, she ends up hiring a sultry young call girl named Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) to pick on to David and report back to her how he responds. As Catherine and Chloe constantly meet each other, Chloe keeps telling stories about him that grows more explicit at each meeting. Such stories has ultimately devastated Catherine so much she begins to believe that her husband no longer the person he used to be, and soon finds herself unexpectedly drawn deeper to Chloe -- an obsession that proves to be more dangerous than she ever imagined.
Beneath its half-baked script lies some thought-provoking topics that keeps the movie all the more intriguing to watch for. Among them are how Catherine becomes insecure and delusional that she keeps thinking she's no longer desirable enough for her husband she has suspected all the while. The movie's biggest highlight is of course the brief but intense lesbian scene between her and Chloe, which is no doubt one of the most explicit sex scenes ever filmed (at least for mainstream releases) in recent memory.
The cast is equally top-notch. Amanda Seyfried, who is known for making a successful career in comedies, delivers a tour de force bravura performance as the mysterious call girl with hidden agenda. Not only she is compulsively watchable for all her sultriness and occasional glimpse of nudity, she also believable and sympathetic. As good as she is, her character remains a cipher that Egoyan doesn't seem to dig deep to make her someone we can understand better. It's a minor nitpicking in an otherwise superb role Seyfried tackled with alluring grace. Julianne Moore is similarly impressive as the emotionally-insecure Catherine, while Liam Neeson makes best of his limited screen time playing an effective performance that could have been a thankless role.
Technical credits are first-rate here. In addition to Egoyan's sumptuous direction, cinematographer Paul Sarossy captures a well-shot, moodily icy texture to its Toronto surroundings while Mychael Danna's sneaky music score suitably accompanied the lurid atmosphere of the movie.