The less you know, the bigger the surprise

Please don’t read this review.

I know no one goes to a movie anymore unless there’s been so much hype, including trailers that reveal the entire plot, that they feel like they’ve already seen it.  All I can say is that Chloe (Sony) is so full of surprises, both subtle and huge, that the less you know in advance the more you’ll enjoy it.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is the performance of Amanda Seyfried in the title role.  It was one thing to hold her own opposite Meryl Streep as a lovable lightweight in Mamma Mia! and Vanessa Redgrave in Letters to Juliet, but she’s on more serious turf here against Julianne Moore, who’s giving her best performance since Far from Heaven, and Seyfried is a revelation.

Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan showed in Exotica that he can wallow in sleaze and come up smelling like a rose (and in Where the Truth Lies that he can’t).  Chloe is a psychosexual thriller in the Fatal Attraction mold, likewise becoming more psycho than sexual as it goes along.  It’s a remake of the 2003 French film Nathalie, but with significant changes in the screenplay by Erin Cressida Wilson (Secretary).  It’s Egoyan’s first feature he hasn’t written himself, but the material suits him.

Catherine (Moore) and David Stewart (Liam Neeson) are a well-to-do Toronto couple who have been married long enough for the spark to go out.  She’s a gynecologist, he’s a professor.  They have a teenage son, Michael (Max Thieriot), who’s rebellious and sexually active, defiantly bringing his girlfriend home to spend the night.

Suspecting David of infidelity after he misses the surprise birthday party she throws for him, Catherine starts to feel like she’s the only one who’s not getting any.  The evidence builds against David, who can’t speak to a woman half his age without flirting.

Equally flirtatious is Chloe (Seyfried), who even seems to be coming on to Catherine when they meet in the ladies room of a posh restaurant.  Chloe, a prostitute, is dining with a client, while Catherine and David are there with friends, one of whom says, “I like to pay [for sex]….No emotional repercussions.”

Catherine hires Chloe to test David by seeing if he’s susceptible to her charms.  The young woman comes back repeatedly with stories, starting with innocent meetings and progressing to amorous liaisons.  At once clinical and graphic, they may not be what Catherine wanted to hear but she can’t help listening—and being turned on—by the details.  But is it hearing about David that excites her, or is it Chloe?

It’s not a complete answer, but the movie’s hottest sex scene is between the two women.  That’s only half the story, and it’s already more than I intended to tell.

Chloe’s opening narration starts the film off with a Secret Diary of a Call Girl vibe but that’s not followed up as the focus quickly shifts to Catherine.  Egoyan maintains a certain level of intelligence, never resorting to cheap shocks but never shying away from expensive ones.

Toronto, playing itself instead of New York for a change, proves distinctive and interesting, and the largely glass house the Stewarts live in is as amazing as someone says it is.

No bunnies were harmed in the making of Chloe, but some marriages, gay and straight, may be helped by it.  You may be surprised by the emotional impact it has on you.  It slipped past most people in theaters but don’t let it get away again.

The Q Archives and articles like this are republished here by the kind contribution of Tony Molnar-Strejcek, the publisher of Pittsburgh’s Out. Maintaining the cultural history of Pittsburgh's LGBTQ Community is made possible by contributions by readers like you.