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Overall Rating

Awesome: 5.88%
Worth A Look: 35.29%
Just Average: 5.88%
Pretty Crappy: 5.88%

2 reviews, 5 user ratings

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by Peter Sobczynski

"Bad Love"
1 stars

While killing time between screenings a couple of months ago, a group of colleagues and I became involved in a semi-heated discussion on the following topic: name the worst movie in the past decade made by an internationally renowned filmmaker. I don’t recall if we ever came to a final consensus but I do remember that one title that most everyone agreed on was Atom Egoyan’s “Where the Truth Lies,” a bizarre and wildly unsuccessful erotic mystery involving a Martin-Lewis-like comedy team who split up after the unsolved death of a young woman in their hotel suite and the intrepid-yet-slutty reporter who takes up the case (and both of the guys) two decades later. When that project had been announced, many questioned why Egoyan, who had made a name for himself with such enigmatic and emotionally devastating dramas as “Exotica” and “The Sweet Hereafter,” would want to invest his time and talent in bringing a roman a clef novel from Rupert Holmes, best known for penning the immortal “The Pina Colada Song,” to the big screen and after getting a load of the always turgid and rarely tumescent results, they were still wondering. Frankly, the best thing that one could say about that film was that it was so ridiculously bad that it might serve as a deck clearer for Egoyan, whose output after his “The Sweet Hereafter” breakthrough had been growing increasingly erratic, to get all of the crap out of his system and refocus his talents on something more worthy. For a little while, it seemed to be working--while his follow-up film, “Adoration,” was a frustratingly uneven work at times, it was at least ambitious and contained some beautiful artistic flourishes here and there--but with his latest film, “Chloe,” he has negated whatever forward momentum he might have had by coming up with another erotic drama of supreme silliness that is so wretched that it makes “Where the Truth Lies” seem almost coherent by comparison.

Julianne Moore stars as Catherine Stewart, a Toronto gynecologist who seems to have it all on the surface--a thriving business (especially since the Mantle brothers closed up shop), a lavish home, a brilliant husband in music professor David (Liam Neeson),and a son, Michael (Max Theirot), who is a gifted musical prodigy. Alas, it turns out that nothing is quite as it seems--Catherine is growing more and more insecure over getting older, David is a relentless flirt who nevertheless fails to focus those attentions towards his wife and Michael, as we are repeatedly told, is in therapy, though the fact that he has a babe classmate sleeping over virtually every night suggests that he isn’t doing too bad. Things come to a head when Catherine arranges an elaborate surprise party for David’s birthday and he calls at the last minute to say that he missed his plane and won’t be coming home that night. When she snoops around on his cell phone the next day and discovers evidence that suggests that he deliberately missed the flight in order to spend his time with a comely student, she becomes convinced that he is having an affair.

Without any real proof with which to confront him, Catherine does what any woman in her position would do--she makes contact with Chloe (Amanda Seyfried), a local call girl who she has seen making the rounds in the neighborhood from her office window, and hires her to pretend to be a student in order to flirtatiously approach David and report back on how he responds. After making first contact, Chloe reports back that nothing really happened and Catherine is about to drop the whole thing as one big mistake when Chloe arranges a second meeting between her and David that begins with a picnic lunch and ends with a bit of fun in a quiet area of the local botanical gardens. Catherine is devastated but strangely intrigued by Chloe’s tales and thus begins a pattern of Chloe going off to have assignations with David and then describing what happened in excruciating detail to Catherine only a few minutes later. Through this, an unexpected kind of bond begins to develop between the two women and while I won’t say exactly what occurs as a result, I will say that it all culminates in a web of secrets and betrayals that will touch all involved in expected ways and ensure that Michael will continue to be in therapy for years to come, though at least he gets a nice graduation party out of it.

If some of this sounds familiar to you, it perhaps means that you saw “Nathalie,” a 2004 French drama from Anne Fontaine (who recently did “Coco Before Chanel”) featuring Fanny Ardant as the mistrustful wife, Gerard Depardieu as the possibly wayward husband and Emmanuelle Beart as the call girl with a few secrets of her own. Although hardly a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, I remembered it as being a reasonably intelligent and well-made meditation on love, lust and trust anchored by a low-key script and simultaneously strong and delicate performances from the three leads. Nevertheless, after watching “Chloe,” I rushed home and rewatched my DVD of “Nathalie” to see if my memory was faulty and that it was just as terrible as the new version. Thankfully it wasn’t and as I was watching it, I began to recognize some of the reasons why “Chloe” failed so completely. For one thing, transplanting the story from France to Toronto does the story a great disservice because while a tale filled with hothouse emotions (literally at one point), extreme reactions to potential infidelity and endless erotic discourses makes dramatic sense when set in Paris (where the people, at least those in the movies, do such things all the time, it just feels much less plausible when enacted amidst the eminently reasonable surroundings of Toronto. “Chloe” is also much more sexually explicit than “Nathalie” was and while horndogs who want to see the gal from “Mamma Mia!” naked will no doubt be thrilled with her generous display of flesh here, there is a fine line between the erotic and the ludicrous and Egoyan, whose “Exotica” remains one of the most dreamily sensual films I have ever seen, keeps tripping over it this time around--there is one sex scene here intercutting a duet between David and Chloe in the gardens and a solo turn by Catherine in the shower (with an assist from a detachable shower head) that is so embarrassing and cheesy that you have expect to see Shannon Tweed or Tanya Roberts waltz in to the accompaniment of a wailing saxophone.

What really pushes “Chloe” from being just another failed remake of a movie that was perfectly good as it was into the realm of all-out, what-were-they-thinking? Disaster, though, is the adaptation of Fontaine’s original screenplay by Erin Cressida Wilson, best-known for her screenplay for the fairly overrated kinkfest “Secretary.” For the first half, the script pretty much follows the standard path of most remakes--the storyline has been dumbed-down and coarsened, the characters are less complicated and complex and more attention has been given to the nuts and bolts of the narrative than to the people populating it. (Ironically, Fontaine’s original film is closer in style and tone to Egoyan’s earlier work than this one and not just because the earlier one used a lot of Leonard Cohen on the soundtrack). Unfortunately, this turns out to be the better half of the film because once it reaches the midway point, the screenplay diverts wildly from the original and winds up going completely off the rails in ways that make the infamous Demi Moore revision of “The Scarlet Letter” seem positively staid by comparison. Without going into too much detail about what happens (not that you would believe me if I told you), Egoyan and Wilson basically throw away both the story and whatever dramatic points they were hoping to make and try to transform the film into a bizarre thriller that owes less to “Nathalie” than to the likes of “Obsessed” and which replaces the drama and nuance with cheap violence, cheaper dramatic revelations and a sex scene so ludicrous that it almost outdoes the shower/garden ménage a trois mentioned earlier. The final result isn’t just bad--it is downright insulting and I can’t understand how people as talented as the ones involved with this project could have read the material and still signed up to do it with a straight face and a clear conscience.

As a result, the only thing that “Chloe” has to offer viewers--at least those who don’t frequent “Mr. Skin”--is the sight of talented people struggling to overcome one of the silliest screenplays ever written. Behind the camera, Egoyan is quickly overcome by the silliness on display and can‘t figure out whether he is doing one of his typically arty fever-dreams or a straightforward genre piece and instead offers an uncomfortable melding of the two in which the suspense is half-hearted, the drama is overblown and none of the characters act or sound like real human beings. (On the other hand, such longtime collaborators as cinematographer Paul Sarossy and composer Mychael Danna do their usual solid work here.) As for the actors, if this film does nothing else, it reminds us that Julianne Moore is one of the best actresses around because only someone with her talents could take a character as screwy, implausible and retrograde as this one and make her seem almost remotely plausible, at least until she is completely betrayed by the screenplay in the second half. As the husband, Neeson does a pretty good job as well but he at least has the advantage of being off-screen for most of the film, especially during the idiotic final act. However, as Chloe, Amanda Seyfried is pretty much a fail across the boards. Sure, she is attractive and all but lacks the mystery and gravity that Emmanuelle Beart brought to the role along with her considerable good looks and before long, she seems as confused and bewildered by her character as those of us in the audience are. To be fair, however, I doubt that even someone as talented as Beart could have figured out a way to navigate the filp-flops that the character undergoes in the second half

Too silly to work as drama, too pretentious to work as camp and too dour to work as straightforward erotica, “Chloe” is the kind of epic disaster that will leave ordinary film fans rolling in the aisles with incredulous laughter and cineastes wondering how a once-great filmmaker could take leave of his senses, artistic and otherwise, as completely as he does here. Normally when a director I admire comes up with a terrible film, I will sometimes go to ridiculous lengths to find a way to justify it and explain how it fits in with their previous work but in this case, even I cannot perform the mental gymnastics required to put forth such an argument. I am almost tempted to say that with “Chloe,” Atom Egoyan has already staked a claim for the title of worst film of this decade by an internationally renowned filmmaker. However, I suspect that he might be disqualified on the simple basis that most viewers wouldn’t hesitate to strip him of such titles as “renowned” or “filmmaker” after enduring the likes of this.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=19574&reviewer=389
originally posted: 03/26/10 01:00:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

8/26/12 David Pollastrini Seyfried looks hot but not much else good about this film. 2 stars
1/29/12 hurdygurdy man To carol m: after her, let's b-slap the kid AND the writers-utter f'in nonsense. 1 stars
7/13/11 mr.mike The original French film was better. 3 stars
3/28/10 carol miles I'd like to squeeze Amanda Seyfriend's head. It's not a compliment. 1 stars
9/14/09 Arti Fabulous movie 5 stars
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