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Arthouse erotica or well-produced softcore? I vacillated while watching Chloe, which comes with the benefit of the doubt: The cast includes Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson, and Amanda Seyfried, and it was directed by Toronto’s Atom Egoyan (The Sweet Hereafter, Ararat, The Adjuster, and many other films which, whatever their respective merits, display a consistent filmmaking intelligence).

The deciding moment came during the climactic sequence, and I won’t give it away. Suffice to say that it involves a shot of shoes in a woman’s closet, and it’s such a howler that it made it impossible to take any of the preceding 90 minutes seriously. The finale is only slightly less ridiculous, failing to tie up the plot’s loose ends and wasting its potentially intriguing characters.

Which is not to say that it’s not worth seeing, at least if you have an affinity for this kind of glossy nonsense. A remake of the 2003 French film Nathalie, which starred Fanny Ardant, Emmanuelle Béart, and Gerard Depardieu, Chloe stars Moore as a doctor who fears that her husband (Neeson) is cheating on her. She hires a posh call girl (Seyfried, whose abundant nudity will boost the box office) to come on to him to find out how he will react. Instead of being shocked by her reports, however, she is fascinated and, before long, aroused at this glimpse into the sexual effect her husband (whom she still loves) can have on another woman.

Egoyan and his production team certainly show Toronto to its best advantage, though audiences eager for a spring thaw may find it a literally chilly film to watch. Its surfaces are all wood, metal and glass; the only fabrics are clothing and bed sheets. The cast treats the material with perhaps more seriousness than it deserves. This is the film Neeson was working on when his wife, Natasha Richardson, died in a skiing accident last year, and I will guiltily admit to wondering which were the scenes he shot after that tragedy: It’s a somber note in a film which starts out well but, like so many serious efforts at cinerotica, sinks into silliness.

—m. faust

Watch the trailer for Chloe

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