Single White Female

chloe article 0 Single White Female CHLOE
Running time 99 minutes
Written by Erin Cressida Wilson
Directed by Atom Egoyan
Starring Julianne Moore, Amanda Seyfried, Liam Neeson

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Sheesh. When will people learn? Under the ironclad laws decreed by movieland, we know that cheating on a spouse leads to nothing but trouble (Fatal Attraction); snooping on a suspected philanderer will only uncover things you really didn’t want to know about (What Lies Beneath, every Lifetime movie ever); and, as shown in Atom Egoyan’s Chloe, hiring a prostitute to tempt your spouse into infidelity is not such a terrific idea. In fact, it just might be the slippery slope that leads you into boiling-bunny territory.

Julianne Moore stars as Catherine, a Toronto gynecologist (why this is a somewhat amusing turn of phrase, I cannot explain) who suspects her husband, David (Liam Neeson), is cheating on her. She has her reasons! David is a college professor who annoyingly gets better-looking with age, is a natural flirt and has young nubile things fluttering their eyelashes at him all the time. After he misses the surprise birthday party Catherine had planned, she decides the best course of action is to enlist a high-class call girl to test David’s fidelity. There are just so many reasons why this is a bad idea, but the movie goes with the fact that it turns out Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) is, well, a little off, and perhaps more interested in what’s going on with Catherine than with her husband. And then the movie takes a wide left turn and heads straight into crazyville.

Chloe is a remake of the 2004 French film Nathalie, and is the first of Mr. Egoyan’s films (The Sweet Hereafter and last year’s Adoration) that he didn’t write himself (Erin Cressida Wilson, who penned Maggie Gyllenhaal’s ode to spanking in Secretary, gets credit). The one great success in this film is the casting: One would never expect sweet little Disney-character-looking Mama Mia! star Amanda Seyfried to be able to pack in so much threatening and creepy sex appeal. But, uh, she most certainly does—and you can expect an awful lot of dazed men to leave the theater not being able to remember plot particulars thanks to some artfully shot flashes of skin and rather shocking sex scenes. Unsurprisingly, Julianne Moore is great (come on, she always is), but the most interesting things about her character—a hinted despair about aging, along with her perceived fading beauty and a mysterious dislike of bras—are glossed over in favor of the weird sexual dynamics that suddenly threaten her family as the film crosses over into thriller territory. The two women just…go for it…in a way that is actually pretty brave but ultimately doesn’t do much for the plot except for its shock value (and its ability to get the Interwebs abuzz). With a different cast and director, this movie would be just another fuzzily lit made-for-TV movie. But because of the performances and the rather gorgeous cinematography, one is left wishing that it just could have been something more.

svilkomerson@observer.com