September 15, 2009 / 3:06 AM / 9 years ago

Egoyan crafts poignant thriller about infidelity

TORONTO (Hollywood Reporter) - Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan has long had the respect of his international peers, earning countless accolades including Oscar nominations for 1997’s “The Sweet Hereafter.” But he’s never before enjoyed the type of commercial success that is certain to come with the compelling “Chloe.”

Director Atom Egoyan arrives at the "Chloe" film screening during the 34th Toronto International Film Festival, September 13, 2009. The festival runs from September 10-19. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

A sexually charged melodrama starring Julianne Moore as a distrustful wife who deliberately leads flirtatious husband Liam Neeson into temptation in order to confirm her suspicions, the cleverly constructed film manages the neat feat of containing all ingredients of a potential hit while remaining true to Egoyan’s body of work.

“Chloe” is in fact a remake of the 2003 French film, “Nathalie,” which paired Fanny Ardent and Gerard Depardieu. It’s extremely unlikely that the film will emerge from the Toronto International Film Festival, where it had its world premiere, without getting a number of distributors hot and bothered.

Moore’s Catherine is a gynecologist with a busy practice in Toronto’s upscale Yorkville district who lives in a fabulous home with her handsome professor husband, David (Neeson). When David misses a flight home from New York and, in the process, his own surprise birthday party, Catherine has reason to suspect he’s having an affair, and puts her theory to the test after a fateful encounter with an alluring young female escort (a breakout Amanda Seyfried).

Initially, Catherine hires her to “run into” David at his favorite coffee shop, to see if he’d be willing to take the bait, but the experiment spirals out of her control as Chloe relates their subsequent encounters in graphic detail.

Not only is Catherine unable to call a halt to the reported infidelities, but doe-eyed Chloe ultimately manages to draw both Catherine and their teenage son (Max Thieriot) into the increasingly complex equation.

Moore and Neeson (who were in the middle of shooting the film at the time of the tragic death of his wife, Natasha Richardson), beautifully underplay their roles, lending screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson’s (“Secretary”) dialogue an unexpected poignancy.

But it’s Seyfried (“Big Love,” “Mamma Mia!”) who makes a major impression here, adeptly navigating the twists and turns of her character’s not-so-apparent motivations. The actress, who also is represented at the festival in “Jennifer’s Body,” is definitely emerging as Toronto’s 2009 It girl.

Egoyan, meanwhile, expertly counterbalances the film’s heated impulses with the cool visual sophistication of the angular, sparse production design (with assistance from frequent collaborator Phillip Barker). His customary use of actual locations lends a hint of credibility to those sordid goings-on.

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