by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Chloe is a tough one to pin down, but it's an interesting, complicated presentation. If I were to describe the narrative for you meticulously, which I will not, you would conclude that the plot is too contrived, like one of those many "erotic thrillers" that came out in the 80s and 90s after Body Heat and Basic Instinct made a few bucks. There would be some accuracy in that assumption, but you will almost never get that impression while watching the movie, at least not until the final two or three minutes, when you might groan a bit. Before that, however, the film delivers its plot twists in such a sensible way that you can believe them completely. The characters are so complex and credible, and are performed so well, that you can believe you are watching real events happening to real people, even if a detailed plot synopsis would not reflect that on paper.

A 50ish wife decides that her handsome, professorial husband is probably cheating on her. She is a doctor and can diagnose the symptoms of an affair. She sees that young women are attracted to her man. She sees that he likes to flirt with them. She sees that he seems to establish a real intimacy with his students. She catches him in a lie or two. She knows that their own sexual flame has been nearly extinguished. These clues add up to more than enough evidence to drive her to dramatic action. She hires a gorgeous call girl to tempt her man and report the results.

That's just the jumping-off point, but it's where I have to stop my description because things get very complicated very quickly and our assumptions about the characters are not always correct. They surprise us with motivations both overt and secret. They are not manipulating one another for money or sport, but to find something they long for, even if they are not quite sure what that might be. Their true passions sometimes remain ambiguous to us for many reasons, not the least of which is that they themselves do not understand them. Of course, as in any thriller, their words and actions do not always mesh. This film is a thriller of sorts, but it's not just a thriller. It was directed by Atom Egoyan, and he's always digging deeper than would the director of a popcorn film. In a true genre thriller we in the audience are deceived because the characters are lying to one another, or because the director is simply misleading us as part of the entertainment. In this film we may be misled by the words of the characters, but the underlying reason for the dissonance tends to be both anfractuous and oblique. The characters may be lying to one another, or they may be lying to themselves, or they may be surprising themselves. It may even be true that they are lying to one another, and we know it, but that the lies have a very different significance from that which we first presume.

All of that verbiage can be boiled down to the fact that I enjoyed the film. The reviews were mixed and the critics who disliked it did so for a lot of the same reasons that made me like it. For example: "A serious misstep...treating what is actually a lurid story as though it were a piece of high art." I think that criticism applies better to some of Egoyan's other films. In Where the Truth Lies, he managed to turn a really juicy and light thriller into a hand-wringing drama by taking the whole thing too seriously, but I don't think he did that here. I think he did lift the erotic thriller genre into something resembling high art, and ... well ... I like that. I think it's the closest Egoyan has come in this millennium to fulfilling the great promise he showed in the mid 90s.

To be completely honest, I did truly hate that pseudo-thriller resolution at the very end, which seemed to cheapen the film, but before that I was enrapt by the film's mysteries, and engrossed by its eroticism, which includes plenty of nudity from curvaceous Amanda Seyfried as the 'tute and some from Julianne Moore as the wife whose heightened paranoia drives the plot. Liam Neeson provides a steady anchor for the film as the husband, and he matches Moore in one of the most poignant scenes I've seen in a long time: the two of them finally decide to stop playing games and meet in public to confront one another directly with their suspicions. The scene begins in a cafe, seems to be unproductive at first, then moves to the street where the characters finally connect authentically, with both actors delivering emotionally charged moments without resorting to any acting tricks, just by trying for a heightened level of sincerity which grants us in the audience a much-needed catharsis after all the gamesmanship we have witnessed. I wish the screenwriter had found a way to make that scene the film's conclusion.

Blu-Ray DVD


3.5 Roger Ebert (of 4 stars)
52 Rotten Tomatoes  (% positive)
48 (of 100)


6.9 IMDB summary (of 10)


Box Office Mojo. It grossed about $3 million in arthouse distribution (350 theaters)


  • Amanda Seyfried: breasts and buns
  • Julianne Moore: breasts



Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


Solid small-audience film. A thinking man's thriller.