Dr. Catherine Stewart (Julianne Moore) has coldly and clinically reduced the female orgasm down to a series of muscle contractions. To her, it's not about sex. It's not about lust. It's not about love. It's a physical reaction, and she does have some literature on this back in her office should you want to give it a read. Catherine's a gynecologist, so she knows how all the parts work...just not what they mean. ...or maybe she's just feeling her age and has shrugged herself off as old and undesirable. This is all in stark contrast to her husband David (Liam Neeson), a relentless flirt who seems to have only grown more alluring as the years go on. Catherine feels insecure enough as it is, but suffering through yet another round of flirty banter with a waitress, deliberately missing his flight back home to hang around in New York, his phone buzzing to reveal a suggestive text message...she's certain that David has been unfaithful. Certainty isn't enough for her, though...Catherine needs to know. Some suspicious wives might hire a private eye; Catherine hires a prostitute.
If you're gonna try to tempt a guy, you could do a lot worse than Chloe (Amanda Seyfried): young...curvaceous...bee-stung lips...saucer eyes so massive that she makes Zooey Deschanel's look like she's part of the Chan Clan by comparison. Every few days, Chloe reports on her progress in mildly pretentious and exceptionally lurid detail. Catherine is disturbed as her greatest fears are confirmed, sure, but she also finds herself more aroused than she has in far too many years. She'd been paying Chloe to try to sleep with her husband, but now it seems she wants a taste herself...
Wanna see Amanda Seyfried topless? How about fifty seconds of Seyfried writhing on top of a naked Julianne Moore and doing something more than a little suggestive with her wriggling fingers just out of frame? Honestly, that's kind of the review right there. Chloe has a name cast and a respected director in Atom Egoyan at its
To be fair, at least Chloe is never boring. Its runtime is fairly lean at an hour and a half minus credits, and despite being so intensely driven by dialogue, the film feels some fifteen or twenty minutes lighter than that. I'm not one to play the "saw it coming" card, but even though it became unmistakably clear what the driving twist would prove to be as Chloe gave Catherine her second report, the movie still held my attention. Chloe marches in lockstep too closely to convention to make any unforgiveable mistakes, at least until the third act rolls around. Up until that point, the screenplay is forgettable and routine, but the execution is sharp enough for Chloe to still seem okay. Chloe completely falls off the rails seventysomething minutes in, though, as if director Atom Egoyan drew a line in the sand and declared that everything before it is the "Erotic" and everything after is the "Thriller". The finalé and its lead-up are cartoonishly overwrought, with some scenes almost feeling as if they'd been spliced in from a completely different movie.
The intensity and
Chloe toys with some potentially compelling ideas, with particular interest paid to the interplay between technology and sex...to the use of colossal glass windows and leering at mirrors to reflect its characters' perceptions of themselves and each other...but they're fairly cursory. At the end of the day, it stumbles into an uncomfortable middle ground between a character study and Cinemax After Dark, lacking enough of either to grab much of anyone's attention. It's far too formulaic and insubstantial to appeal to the arthouse crowd, and despite its pervasive erotic streak, Chloe isn't lurid enough for anyone just seeking out cheap, trashy thrills. As much as part of me cringes at how ridiculous the final twenty minutes of the movie are, when it veers over into Mother, May I Sleep with Danger? territory, I can't help but think that maybe Chloe should've screamed ahead in that direction the entire time. The movie's never in any danger of being great, so if you're gonna wind up this loopy, you might as well commit to it all the way. Whatever. Chloe is too watchable for me to slap it with DVD Talk's bottom-of-the-barrel-scraping rating, but if you're hellbent on giving this disc a spin, I really wouldn't recommend it as anything more than a rental.
The movie's a mess, sure, but at least it looks nice. Chloe really is stunning in high definition. The 1.85:1 image is crisp and spectacularly detailed, not marred by any digital artifacting or overzealous noise reduction. Contrast is generally robust, though black levels do flatten out in a handful of dimly-lit sequences. Its palette remains vivid throughout as well, rendering hues that DVD as a format could never hope to reproduce. I really can't muster much of anything to complain about the presentation at all.
Like most everything anymore, Chloe has been encoded with AVC, and viewers taking advantage of the dot-for-dot modes on their displays will note very faint letterboxing bars at the top and bottom of the frame to preserve the film's original aspect ratio. As usual, Sony has given the bitrate plenty of headroom, and Chloe arrives on a dual-layer Blu-ray disc.
Chloe is intensely driven by its dialogue, and the usual sorts of thriller theatrics are sparse throughout this 24-bit, six-channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The surround channels are reserved to reinforce the score and for light splashes of atmospheric color. That's not to say that this sort of ambiance isn't effective -- Atom Egoyan even devotes a stretch of his commentary to marveling at the way the bustling streets of Toronto swirl from one channel to the next in one key sequence -- but the sound design is deliberately understated. Directionality is limited, although there are a few moments that stand out, including an impassioned shout near the end of the film and a ringing telephone early on. The subwoofer isn't given much to do, though some of the percussion in the score does manage to take advantage. With dialogue being such a focal point in Chloe, it should go without saying that it's consistently rendered cleanly and clearly throughout, never once dominated in the mix. This is a low-key soundtrack but one that does complement the approach of the film reasonably well.
There aren't any dubs or alternate soundtracks, commentary aside. Subtitles are limited to English (traditional and SDH) only.
The Final Word
Throughout the extras on this Blu-ray disc, the filmmakers marvel at the many themes and metaphors pervasive throughout Chloe: the indelible impact our fantasies have on the very real world in which we live, the physical and technological glass walls that separate us as much as they bring us together... Picture me shaking my head no right now. Strip away its name cast and glossy sheen, and Chloe is just another paint-by-numbers erotic thriller, with only a lack of Shannon Tweed sprawled out half-naked on the cover to keep itself at arm's length from the rest of the Cinemax After Dark crowd. Chloe is artfully directed and well-acted enough to be watchable, but there's nothing here you haven't seen before. Well, aside from Amanda Seyfried baring it all, I guess, and that alone might be worth a couple of clicks on Netflix for a lot of you out there. Me...? I think I'd just as soon pass. Rent It.