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Atom Egoyan sexes it up…again.

August 14, 2010

there's some serious acting chops at this table.

I still remember the moment I was reading an entertainment magazine and saw the blurb for Chloe:  a psychosexual thriller starring Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, and Amanda Seyfried, directed by Atom Egoyan.  I didn’t even know I wanted that dream to come true, but it did!   What can I say, I do love this style of movie.  You know, the ones where people get fixated on something, twist themselves up in a frenzy, and freaky sex in some form results.  (I use “freak” in the general sense of it gives us a strange feeling, because it is unexpected in some way.  Some of us might like that strange feeling!)

There are many examples of this film, in mainstream and indies alike, so where does Chloe fall on the spectrum?   I have both faith and high expectations in director Atom Egoyan, as a fan of Ararat, The Adjuster, and The Sweet Hereafter.  (If you haven’t read Snarky’s post here about Exotica, go do that now.) In lieu of highly edited and stylized trailer, I present a 90 second scene from the movie that sums up the back-of-the-box premise.

I fell hard for this movie.  First off, the cinematography is beautiful, I love how he frames each shot carefully.  He doesn’t attempt to hide the unusualness of certain angles, but he isn’t gimmicky either, not trying to show off he’s clever, it’s more as if to say, “yes, yes, I know it’s cheeky, but look, LOOK, at them both in the mirror there!  You see?”  And it is indeed beautiful.

Secondly, Julianne Moore is my absolute favorite White Lady In Peril and she brings her full game here, with new twists — the longings and worries of aging, of loss of desire, of growing frailty that she accelerates herself with provoking her own panic and anxiety.  Egoyan’s films are character studies, so if you’re not interested in the character, you will get bored, and while his characters at times make poor choices and even behave badly at other times, they are not boorish for the sake of it, it’s not a Noah Baumbach or Nicole Holofcener film, it’s more early Mike Nichols.   Liam Neeson is perfectly cast here in a supporting role, he does the job great as the charismatic question mark of a husband, but he doesn’t intervene, as the movie is really about Moore (in nearly every scene, just how I like it) and the escalating relationship with Seyfried.  I love the latter in Big Love and enjoy her in Mamma Mia! but I would not consider her an acting powerhouse; however, she did alright here: she pulls off some believable moments, and sex scenes (that I knew were coming but did NOT really want to see) ended up actually….being pretty sexy.  But as I said in the beginning, I’m into that.  The uncomfortable, weird, freaky, or awkward sexy.

And the ending is, well, pretty damn fcked up.  But did I expect anything less from this movie?  Nope.

So, yes! Watch this movie if you….

  • are an Atom Egoyan completist.  It’s more accessible than some of his previous work, so some of the weirdness is gone, but not all of it.
  • also enjoy such movies as Notes on a Scandal, The Page Turner, The Dying Gaul, or The Piano Teacher.
  • love Julianne Moore and want to see her looking gorgeous.
14 Comments leave one →
  1. August 14, 2010 4:53 pm

    Atom Egoyan is the go-to guy for all your erotic thriller needs. I’ve been meaning to catch this, because I really love his films – though oddly enough The Sweet Hereafter, which is not sexy, is my favorite.

    Great post. I’m glad that someone wrote about it.

  2. evmaroon permalink
    August 14, 2010 7:29 pm

    I’m pleased that I currently live in a place in which I can find this movie. Watching everything on Netflix months after it’s hit theaters gets old fast. I heart me some Atom Egoyan!

  3. August 14, 2010 7:56 pm

    I’ll try to put my Egoyan grudge aside (I was on a first date some years ago, and we got to the movie late and a film I hadn’t heard anything about was playing… “The Sweet Hereafter,” and I liked Sarah Polley’s previous work so we attended that film, and, well, that date was HISTORY).

    But certainly he is about moods, more than actions, he’s about thoughts and potential more than actualities, which is what makes his work so frought with fear… because it’s not about what can happen or what does happen, it’s about what occurs when you get to that decision…. that fork in the road, and what you choose to do next, and it always seems as if you never have quite enough information to make the best choice but you have to choose anyhow!

    I intended to check this out, now, I’ll make a point of it!

  4. August 15, 2010 9:40 am

    Absolutely, Dean. I think that’s what drew me into his work. Exotica is all about mood and tenuous connections. The same with The Sweet Hereafter. I would think your date would like your eclectic taste in cinema.

  5. hsofia permalink
    August 15, 2010 2:48 pm

    Exotica is one of my favorites, and I own it. Should re-watch it. Will have to wait for Chloe to come out on DVD, I guess.

  6. August 15, 2010 4:08 pm

    @hsofia: It should be out on DVD! Unless NEtflix gets it before redboxes, etc.?

    @nycpenpusher: yes, you nailed what I like in his movie, the fraughtness. Have you seen Where the Truth Lies? I heard it wasn’t so great, but I think I’m ready to see what it has to offer. I also like filmmaker P.T. Anderson for a similar theme in his movies: dread. All of them are full of dread, and I suppose that is why some audience members deem them dreaful, though I have a taste for it.

  7. hsofia permalink
    August 15, 2010 8:34 pm

    RaymondJ – Netflix doesn’t have it yet. Hmm. I’ve added it, so when it becomes available, I’ll be able to see it.

  8. hsofia permalink
    August 15, 2010 8:42 pm

    Ok, never mind me. Netflix says it’s available in DVD and Blu-ray. Not sure what I was doing wrong, but it’s there.

  9. August 16, 2010 9:07 am

    @Raymond J – I agree with the PT Anderson comparison. I’ve never been able to articulate why I enjoy both of their works, but you’re right. They have a way of capturing the dread of ordinary life in a way that renders it complex and interesting. They seem very interesting in the “butterfly effect” of a single choice. I like that kind of filmmaking.

  10. August 17, 2010 11:03 am

    I’m going to have to check this out now that I’ve read your review of it. The previews did not do much for it and made it seem a bit cheesy/softcore-ish at best. And I have not been loving Julianne Moore for awhile now so I’d love to see her turn in a better performance than she has recently. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some JM! But I feel like I haven’t been crazy about a performance of hers since Far From Heaven. I still need to see The Kids Are All Right as well.

  11. August 18, 2010 12:23 am

    JM has made some clunkers since 2002 (Freedomland, The Forgotten, Next), but I really liked her in Children of Men and Blindness. I just watched A Single Man this past weekend which was an ok movie with a great performance by her. And I know this is kinda weird to say, but I liked the movie Savage Grace. There, I said it.

    But I’m too scared to see The Kids Are All Right. I just know I will be frustrated and annoyed, so I’m waiting for DVD.

  12. August 18, 2010 1:27 am

    JM’s bedroom in A Single Man was KILLER.

  13. hsofia permalink
    August 18, 2010 1:40 am

    I’m with Chriso on Julianne Moore. I have not been feeling her for some years now. I shouldn’t have seen Blindness the movie because it’s based on possibly my favorite book in the world, and I wanted to like it, but was terribly disappointed. Going to be seeing A Single Man, so I’m hopeful. And I’ll pay attention to her bedroom.

  14. August 18, 2010 8:02 am

    @hsofia: I haven’t read the book yet when I saw the movie and I went in expecting disappointment, so I was pleasantly surprised by Blindness, but I could see why you wouldn’t like it having read the book first (I refuse to ever watch A Home At the End of the World because I liked the book and I just can’t see Colin Farell as the main character).

    Keep expectations low for A Single Man as a movie, I thought it was just pretty good and was very glad I didn’t see it in the theater. JM brings great lightness to the screen, along with her amazing house and makeup and outfits and hair (and she does a much better job on the accent than her Boston one in 30 Rock)!

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