‘Chloe’: Bad Girl, Bad Movie

The latest in the line of Hollywood remaking what they don’t understand, “Chloe” is adapted from the French psycho-sexual-thriller “Natalie” (2003), and fails to utilize the proper tension and titillation that one would expect from the genre and the actors involved. Despite the promise of love scenes between Julianne Moore and Amanda Seyfried being most definitely fulfilled, the movie as a whole tends to feel like microwaved leftovers rather than a succulent dish.

Julianne Moore is paranoid gynecologist Catherine Stewart, whose suspicions of her husband’s (Liam Neeson) infidelity leads to her hiring a young prostitute named Chloe to see if she can successfully seduce him. As one would expect, this porno-style prologue leads to some sordid and supposedly sexy escapades, with Seyfried’s Chloe recounting her seductions of Catherine’s husband in heated vocabulary. In what may be the first true love triangle – meaning that all three involved have attractions for the other two, rather than just one other in the mix – we are called into a seriously “Fatal Attraction”-esque second act before the film makes an abrupt turn to avoid the referenced film’s more dramatic finale. “Chloe”’s grander “plot twists” (if the term can be used extremely loosely) often stumble over the psychological tension built in its first half, sabotaging itself with little disregard for pacing and – at times – even character psychology.

The story plays out through a script by Erin Wilson, who doesn’t seem to know exactly how serious the narrative’s events should be; this feeling is echoed by the three leads’ awkward performances and Atom Egoyan’s hesitant direction. Everything about the production seems to be floating just above the line between melo and drama, and the film suffers from a serious lack of traceable identity because of it. That’s not to say the film isn’t worth at least temporarily enjoying if one happens to find themselves in the theater, but the flip-flop that occurs between the first and second hour makes it an experience that isn’t worth seeking out.

Of all the actors, Amanda Seyfried must be called out for continuing her robotc acting, although her performance doesn’t quite sink to the level seen in the similarly “sexy” “Jennifer’s Body.”

Given the wimpy direction and acting, the fantastic art direction truly stands out. Production Designer Phillip Barker works miracles with modern décor and home interior, layering the scene with fascinating expertise when allowed a little bit of elbow room by the plot. The set design also features some of the film’s most engaging commodities; a heavy emphasis on mirrors gives “Chloe” a dynamic sense that really deserves to be in better hands. Competent cinematography is also readily apparent throughout the runtime, but the effect the style could have had is once again dragged down by the film’s wishy-washy self-esteem. Costume, hair and makeup are all convincingly accounted for, but the (often unrealistically) bright lighting gives the performers an occasional plastic look.

Even taking into account “Chloe”’s hobbling plot, its audio design may be its most mixed bag. While Foley soundwork and effects ring noticeably crisp and with above average ranges of subtlety, the film’s score hovers a bit too close to the annoying level. What should be punctuating orchestral accents come off as jagged missed notes to the ear, uncomfortable at best and film-breaking at worst. And considering the second act’s penchant for histrionic plot twists, this grating sensation is wont to repeat itself.

You’d think Hollywood would learn it can’t out-sex France. While “Chloe” features a passable first act full of mediocre but enjoyable plays of suspense, the uselessly dramatic turn in the second half makes you realize that most who were involved in the production are children playing in a sandbox they don’t yet understand. Hapless direction coordinates bored performances, and the beauty and complexity of the film’s art and set design feel unfairly mistrusted in such an amateurish context.

If seeing Julianne Moore and Amanda Seyfried get it on rated-R style is worth the price of your admission, then by all means take some tissues into the theater with you. If you have the ability to search the internet for more involved sexy movies, just rent the original “Natalie” (or even “Fatal Attraction”) instead.