If you’ve ever been loved by somebody too tightly, then you know how scary it could be to let someone in your life and then not know how to extricate yourself from their smothering grasp. The trick in erotic thrillers like Chloe and Fatal Attraction is execution. Too far on one side of the spectrum, they become cerebral. Too far on the other side, they become unintentionally comedic.
Although Fatal Attraction defined this genre back in the late ’80s, it’s been re-visited over the years in films like The Hand That Rocked the Cradle and Single White Female, and now it gets brought to life again in Chloe. All I can say before we begin is that seeing these two back-to-back is enough to drive the average person to mandatory background checks on all potential lovers. Be afraid, be very afraid.
I don’t want to be a spoiler here — there are some surprises in the film — so I’ll stick with what the film’s promotion machine is already saying. Julianne Moore plays Catherine, a gynecologist, who thinks her husband David, played by Liam Neeson, is having an affair. This isn’t the rarest of situations in modern life, but Catherine’s solution sure is. She hires a hooker named Chloe, played by the doe-eyed Amanda Seyfried, to try to seduce him and bring her the details. I’m not kidding. That’s her plan. That’s the movie. Based on Anne Fontaine’s 2003 French film Nathalie and directed by Atom Egoyan, this Americanized version still retains some of the European flair. Let’s put it this way — if you think a three-way is a good thing, you haven’t seen Chloe.
The Defending Champion
Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) is a happily married lawyer, with a great wife and daughter, who meets a hot blonde (Glenn Close) named Alex at a business party. When his wife and daughter go out of town one weekend, he invites Alex to dinner and they end up having sex (well, not at dinner, but you get the idea). The thing is that Dan thinks it’s a one night stand between two consenting adults, but Alex thinks it’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship. It’s pretty clear from the way that director Adrian Lyne shoots their couplings that there’s a lot of heat between them. The problem is that Alex won’t go away, and her fixation on Dan becomes pathological. She does all kinds of crazy attention-getting weirdness, from visiting his wife under the pretext of buying their apartment, to actually throwing acid on is car. And she’s just getting started…
My family recently saw Chloe at the Santa Barbara Film Festival and then attended a two-hour retrospective with Julianne Moore. She’s a phenomenally talented actress, and watching her performances in quick succession made me realize how Chloe probably won’t be one of her stand-outs like Boogie Nights and Magnolia or even A Single Man. For you fans, though, there’s some significant nudity and one major sex scene. So maybe that will make you find an indie theater and watch it, no matter what else I say.
Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, and Amanda Seyfried are all better than the film they’re in. Enough so that, for over half of it, I sat there thinking I was watching a great film, only to challenge that the longer it ran. Michael Douglas and Glenn Close were pretty damn good, too. Great acting all around.
Chloe looks better than Fatal Attraction. It’s sleek and moody, and as I say, vaguely European. But Fatal Attraction tracks better and pulls you into its story rather than pushes you out.
Finally, though, there’s the problem that both of these films share — they throw logic aside as they reach their conclusions and become completely implausible, both in character and in action. This is ultimately very disappointing in both instances, because there are lots of moments to like in each one.
The erotic thriller genre usually dictates that certain marks will be hit. Sex outside of marriage. Two parties each reacting differently to the heat of passion. Obsession. Pathology. Menace. The reality, however, is that Fatal Attraction did it first. It hasn’t aged perfectly, but it does start more reasonably than Chloe does in its initial premise. Worse for Chloe is that Amanda Seyfried’s character arc isn’t as surprising as it was meant to be (at least to me), while, being the archetype, Fatal Attraction and its less-suprising twists still feel as malevolent and frightening as they did originally.
Chloe is disposable, and at the end, ridiculous. Fatal Attraction is film history in its own way. It made a big splash when it came out — something that Chloe won’t do. If you’re up for it, I’d put Fatal Attraction in your queue and have another go at it.