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Chloe only worth a passing glance 

Most films populated by Hollywood stars are generally launched stateside, but it nevertheless should come as no surprise that Chloe, opening in the U.S. during the final week in March (and limited, at that), has already been making the European rounds since the beginning of the month. After all, American moviegoers aren't accustomed to seeing films in which the subject of sex is treated in an adult manner, so perhaps the studio determined that Yank audiences needed a few extra weeks to prepare for the experience.

Chloe is still a tame affair compared to its counterparts over on the Continent, but at least it's neither juvenile nor prudish, two qualities that taint the vast majority of homegrown flicks. Canadian director Atom Egoyan (Exotica) and scripter Erin Cressida Wilson (Secretary) are no strangers to combining carnal encounters with cerebral ruminations, and here their starting point is the longtime marriage of gynecologist Catherine Stewart (Julianne Moore) and professor David Stewart (Liam Neeson). With the passion and excitement long drained from their relationship, Catherine starts to wonder if David is having an affair with one of his students -- the signs are certainly there. To that end, she hires a wide-eyed escort named Chloe (Amanda Seyfried, a long way from singing ABBA tunes in Mamma Mia!) to seduce her spouse and report back to her. Chloe dutifully carries out her assignment, but the good doctor is surprised to learn that the girl's graphic descriptions of their trysts are sexually arousing her. Is she excited by David's illicit activities, or is she turned on by Chloe herself?

For a good while, Chloe hums along on the strength of its weighty themes, including the difficulties inherent in keeping a marriage invigorated, the ability of intelligent people to use words to blur others' perceptions of reality, and the manner in which pent-up desire can manifest itself in unexpected ways. It's a shame, then, that the film utterly collapses as it rounds third base. Chloe is a remake of the 2003 French flick Nathalie; I've never seen that picture, so I can't say whether the crippling choices presented here were made by Wilson or carried over from the source material. At any rate, what had worked as a bracing character study of an aging woman afraid of losing everything (Seyfried may essay the title role, but this is Moore's show all the way) lamentably turns into both a mopey melodrama with an obvious plot twist as well as a second-rate thriller in which complicated people suddenly become one-dimensional and the spirit of Fatal Attraction hovers over the entire production. But hey, at least we're spared the boiled bunny.

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