“Chloe” (2009)

I watched Atom Egoyan’s Chloe (2009) yesterday, and I plan to watch Nathalie (the 2003 French original), so that I can compare them. An arguably-sensationalist “hotness” factor is certainly there (lesbian sex scene and all, in a story aspect apparently excluded from Nathalie), but something about Chloe didn’t really gel for me, probably at least partly because Egoyan didn’t write the screenplay.

It’s too obvious that Chloe (“escort” Amanda Seyfried) has not actually seduced the daddy (classical music professor Liam Neeson) but, rather, is manipulating the mommy (gynaecologist Julianne Moore). However, the characters are not well enough established for us to care about them (or any of this) all that much. Without stronger characters in place, everything seems somehow “clinical,” but not in the weirdly-compelling way of Egoyan’s best original screenplays (such as 1989’s Speaking Parts) or even his 1997 adaptation The Sweet Hereafter. I also could not keep myself from thinking about whether or not they had completed filming Chloe before Natasha Richardson (Neeson’s wife) died after a skiing accident in Quebec. In fact, they apparently had to re-write parts of the film to account for Neeson’s absence, but he then returned for a couple of days after her death in order to complete certain scenes.

I was surprised that long-time Egoyan collaborator (and fellow Canadian) Mychael Danna’s score was so “traditional orchestral” sounding, because what he does best is electronic-keyboard and/or ethnic-world music fusions with western instruments. It’s almost as though Danna did not find the story compelling enough to bother. It was nice to see “gentrified” Toronto, but Neeson’s character being a classical music professor (based in New York City, for some reason, although this is not very well explained), the use of a Beethoven recital (in Toronto) by the main characters’ son, etc. seemed fairly gratuitous. It was also perfectly obvious (too perfectly obvious to me) that it was going to be Egoyan’s classical-pianist sister Eve playing the “Moonlight Sonata” (and not just the easy first movement!) on the soundtrack, almost as if standing in for the conspicuous absence from this film of Egoyan’s actress-wife Arsinée Khanjian. Presumably, these things may have been to balance (in a low-key Canadian way) the fact that the film’s three primary actors are not Canadians (although R.H. Thomson and others have supporting roles), and the references to the Canadian (London, ON) band Raised by Swans, which Egoyan had already used in his 2008 film Adoration, may have been for similar reasons.

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