OK, so take this plot summary:
A wife is concerned that her husband is cheating on her, so she hires a prostitute to attempt to seduce him and report back to her.
Now, would you think this was the synopsis for a mid-90s Skinemax flick, or a high-art film from “Up And” Atom Egoyan? How about both?
I can’t recall a Skinemax flick with this exact plot, but I am 104% confident it exists. Meanwhile, we have Egoyan’s latest film, Chloe. Egoyan’s been down the “arthouse boner” track before with Exotica, so this is somewhat old hat.
The premise, as summarized above, is that Catherine (Julianne Moore), a well-to-do gynecologist, is concerned about her husband, David (Liam “The Albanian-Crusher” Neeson), and his wandering eye. That he’s a professor of opera at the local State University does her no favors. (Really, an opera professor has all the ladies moist? OK.) He misses a surprise birthday party (which he didn’t really miss, since he didn’t know about it) and this only seems to add fuel to Catherine’s suspicious fire.
Their marriage is in a dry spell, and she notices that he’s constantly flirting with the ladies, who almost categorically flirt back. If I had just saved my daughter from the European slave trade, I’d be milking my hotness as well.
I don’t care that I’m mixing the films up.
Cathy reads a message on David’s cell phone (because, really, what are horrible invasions of privacy amongst spouses?) from a student thanking him for a wonderful evening the night of his aborted birthday party. She’s convinced now that he’s cheating on her, and does the proper thing in that situation. Sits him down to talk, possibly hiring a mediator.
No? OK, how about hiring a high-priced hooker to trap him? Cool.
Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) is that very hooker, and she meets Cathy in a bar to set up the arrangement. Chloe is rightfully skeptical of this plan (as is ANYONE with a brain), but agrees to go along with it, since, y’know, money. She sets her trap at a cafe, where he’s having breakfast before class, and uses the “can I borrow some sugar” gambit. He seems momentarily intrigued, because if Seyfried just walked up to you and asked for sugar, right?
Chloe reports this back to Cathy, then adds that he talked to her a bit longer and kissed her. Cathy is upset, saying that Chloe wasn’t supposed to go that far (SO WHY HIRE A HOOKER?), but asks that it continue. Then Chloe reports that they went to a botanical garden, where she went down on him. Now, they show this (not explicitly, but there’s head bob and O-face), but what’s really dumb is that Chloe also describes this in voiceover. We see her fellating David, then we are told in voiceover how she’s fellating David. Look, Atom, do one or the other. Show it, or keep it to the description. Either one serves a dramatic purpose; both is just overwrought.
So, Cathy’s pissed AGAIN, and tells Chloe not to actually fuck her husband AGAIN, and Chloe responds basically with “I’m a whore. You hired me for this.” AGAIN. And Cathy agrees that is a salient point, and has her continue on.
Another meeting, this time at a hotel, where a bathrobe-clad Chloe tells Cathy that she and David JUST had sex moments ago. By now, Cathy is so damn furious with David that she’s called him out on his shit (which he denies) and can’t even stand to be near him at their son’s music recital. She leaves early in huff about all this, tracks down Chloe in a hotel, cries about how upset she is, and – LESBIAN SCENE!
The next day, Chloe arrives at Cathy’s practice (Cathy still works?) to deliver some flowers and thank her for the night before. Cathy then asks to stop the whole thing, tells her it was all business, and pays her off. Chloe leaves, somewhat dejected and confused. She sets up a hate-fuck by dropping in on Cathy’s son’s hockey practice (Egoyan is Canadian, so yeah) and hitting on him. Meanwhile, Cathy has had it, and wants to force her husband to confess once and for all. And now,
Cathy asks David to come to the cafe he frequents one night. He arrives, perturbed that she’s interrupting his class with this. Tearfully, she demands he confess to what he did, and he keeps claiming that he doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Lo and behold! Chloe also arrives, and when she sees David with Cathy, she has an “Oh shit!” look. David turns around, and asks who the fuck the blonde girl is.
Chloe storms off, Cathy realizes she’s been played, and David is rightfully angry. So angry he, hopefully, starts beating up Albanians. Cathy runs after him, confesses her whole plan, as well as that she ACTUALLY did have sex with her that one night. He goes from Albanian-punching angry to Albanian-shooting angry, but now is the opportunity for them both to confess how they each felt that the marriage was running on fumes sexually. They come to a truce, and kiss. Yay marriage!
Oh, Chloe. Right. So she drops in at their house, and finds their son practicing guitar by himself. He lets her in, she works her magic, and they’re both fucking in his parents’ bed. Eew.
Of course, Cathy comes home, finds them in bed, and Chloe pulls her Single White Female card and threatens to kill Cathy over the breakup with her. Because someone mentally ill must be punished for the protagonist’s shitty choices, Chloe’s pushed out the second floor window and dies. Is that all it takes? Like fifteen feet? I would think you’d sprain your ankle, or dislocate it, not die.
Crisis over, life continues on, but David and son seem a bit concerned that, at the end, Cathy is now wearing the hairpin Chloe gave her (and threatened to kill her with). FIN.
Now, the big reason for this film’s classification into the “Stupid White People” pantheon is Cathy. Like previous honoree It’s Complicated, the movie asks that you accept a character’s actions as proper and rational. There is some implicit criticism of Cathy’s actions, but for the most part, she’s set up as the wronged protagonist. But let’s break her down:
- She gets mad at David for missing the birthday party he neither knew about, nor wanted in the first place.
- She’s exceedingly nosy. She spies on her husband’s cell phone, and has no problem entering her college-aged son’s room at random during private moments.
- After a moment where, in her confusion and anger, Chloe genuinely comforts her (which leads to sex, but still), she tries to write Chloe off.
- Not to mention, this whole goddamn “trap my husband” plan.
- And, she’s so up her own ass with insecurity and fear, she takes the word of a hooker she just met over her husband of at least twenty years.
Pteranodon movie, indeed. I guess the film is a bit more conflicted than Complicated about its lead, but I still think she’s horrible.
Now, I watched this after reading Rich Four-Four’s review excoriating it. (Spoilers there, too.) I was hoping for an art-house failure on the level of The Black Widow. Alas, it wasn’t quite there, and as such, wasn’t quite as fun. For all the problems in the film, it was well-acted, and was shot beautifully. Also, short as it is, the love scene between Seyfried and Moore is kinda intense. Also, shots of both ladies’ boobs throughout. I’d give it 1 star for the behind-the-scenes talent, and another half-star for the boobs.
But, what was described as a shocking erotic thriller and meditation on the nature of marriage and fidelity is merely a Skinemax softcore with A-list talent. Actually, I give the Skinemax picture wider latitude because of the more balanced plot:sex ratio. There is very little separating this movie from the world of softcore, from its ridiculous plot to its overbearing use of sex. Early on, there’s a character who is a friend of Cathy and David. His sole purpose seems to be to be “Guy Who’s Blunt About Sex.” During random conversations, he talks about how often people are fucking, or similar stuff. Even when we’re not dealing with sex, we are. And I don’t need to see someone’s best friend talk about blowjobs at dinner. I get it, Egoyan: sex is always there. Thanks. Can I eat my dinner now?
I can see the potential in this movie as a discussion of trust and how sex intrudes. That would be a fine movie. But taking an almost sexually-exploitative plot, ramping up the pretentiousness, and then having it completely come off the rails in the third act severely undercuts your aim.
I want a movie with a Seyfried/Moore sex scene to be awesome, or at least worth the trip. It really isn’t. Just find the scene on Bittorrent, or what have you.