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Tuesday 7 October 2014

Restrained Twist on the Cuckoo Thriller?

I guess I have been interested in the concept of cuckoo stories since I first studied Emily Bronte's only novel, "Wuthering Heights", for my English Literature A level many years ago. The novel's driven Byronic hero, Heathcliffe, was uncharacteristically attractive compared to many cuckoos in fiction. Typically they are malignant spirits that seek to usurp the order of a loving family and often use tactics such as deception, intrigue and accumulating violence. This eventually concludes with a siege-like situation with our sympathetic heroes fending off the antagonistic cuckoo in a life and death struggle. In these respects, "Chloe", the subject of the below review differs quite a lot from the norm...

Plot: Dr. Catherine Stewart suspects her husband is having an affair. She enlists the help of call-girl, Chloe, to test his loyalty. The experiment results in Catherine discovering far more about herself than she realized existed. This is before she has taken into account the nature of Chloe...

Review:Based on the French film, “Nathalie...”, “Chloe” comes from a type of erotic film genre I have come to refer to as “Cuckoo” thrillers. This is acclaimed Canadian director, Atom Egoyan’s biggest money-maker despite being a financial flop. Draw your own conclusions there. I see strong thematic similarities in “Single White Female”, “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle”, “Fatal Attraction” and even the horror, “Orphan”. However, unlike all those mentioned the film elicits a degree of sympathy from its antagonist. This serves keep the viewer guessing regarding how much of what Chloe says is real or delusional. Like “Fatal Attraction”, there is also something of a moral message running through the story and it raises a few questions regarding personal responsibility.

The film has been criticized for not being erotic enough, despite its premise, but I think the restraint in this respect works well. Egoyan understands restraint and allows strong character interaction, which draws the audience into the collective psychology. It’s a nice trick. Furthermore, Erin Cressida Wilson’s screenplay is less crass than “Nathalie…” She makes some good decisions regarding the relationship between Catherine, David and Chloe. Unfortunately “Chloe” doesn’t deliver high on the actual drama and rather fizzles than explodes. The film’s dramatic climax is disappointing and seems somewhat rushed, even if its final frame is a saving grace. I have never been a fan of Liam Neeson’s work and often feel like he is in the wrong film. I tend to place him just above Nicholas Cage, Richard Gere and Kevin Costner on my bland scale, but he is quite believable in this role. However, the primary drama rests on Julianne Moore and Amanda Seyfried. Their scenes and the complexity of their relationship carry the film.

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