Chlorine Is as Topical as Today’s Wall Street Headlines

But better movies have already been made on the subject of American greed

Kyra Sedgwick and Vincent D'Onofrio star in Chlorine.

Kyra Sedgwick and Vincent D’Onofrio star in Chlorine.

Chlorine begins with a teenage girl experiencing her first period during a swim meet in the bright blue water of the high school swimming pool. A lifeguard rushes out with cleaning liquid to get rid of the blood. Otherwise, I have no idea why this movie is called Chlorine.


Chlorine ★★
(2/4 stars)

Written by: Jay Alaimo and Matt Fiorello

Directed by: Jay Alaimo

Starring: Kyra Sedgwick, Vincent D’Onofrio and Tom Seizmore

Running time: 93 min.


 

A chilling picture of American greed in a country that long ago lost track of the ideals and principles on which it was founded, the movie was filmed in New Jersey but set in a place called Copper Canyon, in the middle of a real estate boom. Construction has begun on a streamlined development offering luxury condos to smart investors. Roger Lent (Vincent D’Onofrio, from TV’s Law and Order) and his wife, Georgie (Kyra Sedgwick), are two of the people trying to keep up with the Joneses, desperate to cut a piece of the action. They used to be one of the town’s prime couples, but Roger’s job at the bank is going nowhere, and Georgie is disillusioned by the failure of her weak, wimpy husband’s promise that she would someday be living on Easy Street. Their bright son works for the contractor who is cutting costs with cheap and faulty building materials. Their daughter is the girl in the swimming pool. They are all nearly as miserable as the audience.

Worshipping the god of materialism, Georgie pushes Roger to make more money by investing in the swanky Copper Canyon Estates. To get his hands on the $100,000 required to invest in the hot new condominiums, he needs somebody else’s cash. He needs a patsy, and he finds one in an oversexed tennis coach and local drug dealer who asks Roger’s advice in his desperation to get rich quick. Everybody wants to get in on the ground floor of a good thing, to make some easy money, from discount plane fares to hot tips on the roulette wheel to triple tax-free stock investments. Movers and shakers with attractive portfolios like Roger’s banking customers are courted as backers to finance short-term, low-risk investments with high yields, pocketing half of the profits. Pretty soon you’ve got another Ponzi scheme. As the trajectory turns putrescent, cash flow problems force the cancellation of the project, and everyone involved suffers various forms of personal breakdown. When the house of cards collapses like the house of Macbeth, the investors resort to blackmail, arson and tequila to cover their tracks and save themselves from ending up like Bernie Madoff.

Directed and co-written by Jay Alaimo (with Matt Fiorello), Chlorine is as topical and relevant as today’s Wall Street headlines. Unfortunately, better movies have already been made about the subject, from the underrated film The Joneses to the current Wolf of Wall Street. What this one needs is a gimlet-eyed perspective. What it does instead is boogie off in every tangled direction at one time. You get the country club wives who talk about investment allocations while spending their grocery and household allowances on cocktail dresses. And you get the husbands who drown their stress in vodka, cocaine and Viagra, competing for status on the golf course and paying for country club memberships they can’t afford with empty savings accounts. It’s the American way. As a film, though, Chlorine is as confusing as its title. Moviegoers be warned: With the skyrocketing cost of movie tickets (not to mention popcorn), this one is a bad investment.