Sweet Temptation: The Collapse of Relationships in Atom Egoyan’s Chloe

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Chloe (Amanda Seyfried, left) and Catherine (Julianne Moore, right) play a dangerous game.

‘I think with all directors there are ideas that recur, at least for the ones that have creative control of their films,’ controversial Canadian director Atom Egoyan once remarked. As one of the selected few in the movie industry who don’t need their products to turn a profit, the four-time winner at Cannes and two-time Oscar nominee is privileged to choose his own topics without commercial restraints.

Sexuality and the difficulties of relationships are Egoyan’s hobbyhorses of sorts. Those two have been frequent ingredients of his better-known arthouse works such as Exotica, The Sweet Hereafter, Ararat, and Where The Truth Lies. For his latest project Chloe, however, he was not only able to attract some major talent from Hollywood but it also became somewhat of a box-office hit – by Egoyan’s standards.

Catherine Stewart (Julianne Moore) has it all. She works as a successful gynecologist, is married to David (Liam Neeson), a handsome university professor, and has a talented teenage son (Max Thieriot). Her life couldn’t be any better, or so it seems. The perfect family, however, is merely a façade. Catherine’s son Michael is annoyed by her, and her husband is stuck in a midlife crisis; he flirts with every young woman he encounters.

When Catherine comes across the attractive escort Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) from the neighborhood, she sets the girl on David. Catherine desperately wants find out if he cheats on her, whatever the cost may be. Chloe keeps her updated about every juicy detail of her meetings with the professor. Devastated by the news, Catherine starts an affair of her own with the young escort. But when she rejects Chloe after a one-night stand, the girl is out for vengeance – and the tragedy unfolds…

Critics and audiences alike have been torn on Egoyan’s movies in the past. Are they masterpieces or just a pile of garbage? As usual, the truth probably lies somewhere in between and depends on what precisely you’re looking for. If you’re into the Hollywood mainstream, Egoyan’s films are not for you, because they’re the exact opposite. Stick with bloated-up summer blockbusters like the Transformers franchise and similar products instead.

In case you’re more open-minded and ready to go with a daring little erotic thriller, Chloe is your kind of film. Apart from Egoyan’s trademark direction, it also features bold performances by such established Hollywood actresses as Moore and Seyfried. Both have had nude scenes in previous movies – Boogie Nights for Moore and Alpha Dog and Jennifer’s Body for Seyfried – but probably none of them as provocative as those in Chloe.

Moore is great, otherwise she wouldn’t have been nominated for four Academy Awards so far, but it’s really Seyfried who steals the show as the eponymous heroine. She shines the brightest because she’s both the cute girl next door and the sexy but calculating prostitute in terms of looks as well as behavior. Add Oscar-winning Liam Neeson with another rock solid performance to the mix, and you get Egoyan’s latest indie gem.