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24 October 2009

LoFiFest Part V

LoFiFest screenings/events attended: 5
Red carpets crossed: 2
Directors sighted: 2
Clive Owen sighted: 2
Questions posed by me during Q&A: 1

The glam factor of the London Film Festival has certainly subsided as the week went on. There was no red carpet outside the Vue cinema in Leicester Square this afternoon for the screening of Chloe; no actors or directors introducing the film and taking audience questions; not even any free poncy water and chocolate.

Chloe is a sort of Fatal Attraction meets Belle de Jour meets Tipping the Velvet, but doesn't seem sure enough of which of those it wants to be, or even who it wants the eponymous Chloe to be. Julianne Moore plays Catherine, a successful gynaecologist who enjoys her job, has a beautiful (if quirky) home and a great family in her husband David (Liam Neeson) and teenage son Michael.

Perfection soon unravels when David, a popular professor of music, misses his flight back home from New York on the night of his birthday when Catherine has been planning a wonderful surprise party for months. He misses the party and crawls back home after Catherine is already asleep. In the morning, she is angry all her efforts were wasted (even though he doesn't like birthdays) and after a little sniping, he stomps off back to the office, forgetting his iPhone. Sure enough, in comes a text message from some hot chick called Miranda thanking him for a great night. After an attempted interrogation as to what David really got up to in New York yields only a vehement denial that he missed his flight intentionally and that nothing happened in New York, Catherine decides to take matters into her own hands.

Conveniently, a few days later she bumps into a beautiful, young girl in the bathroom of a smart restaurant and after a brief, slightly weird conversation and then seeing the same girl--Chloe--sitting down with an older man in the restaurant, she surmises that Chloe is an escort and days later, arranges to meet with her in a bar where she unveils her plans. She will hire Chloe to casually stumble upon David, flirt with him, try to seduce him and see what happens. To see what he does. To see whether he would cheat on her. Chloe finds this set-up a little strange ("I don't usually see women on their own; couples, yeah, but not just women") but eventually agrees to go to David's usual café, pretending to be a student, and to see where things led, all the time reporting back to Catherine all the gory details.

And the details get pretty gory, from Catherine's point of view anyway--David kissing Chloe, Chloe jacking him off in a deserted tool room at the back of the local botanical garden and, later, the two screwing in a hotel room. The same hotel room where Chloe later tells Catherine all the details she really doesn't--and yet does--want to hear about the encounter that had taken place there hours earlier.

Catherine eventually breaks down and Chloe comforts her and a strange sense of tension descends and this is when the movie changes track. Chloe is a film about trust, above all else--Catherine doesn't trust her husband and yet she is willing to put a great deal more trust in this beautiful stranger. She never questions the accuracy of Chloe's tales of the liaisons dangereuses because Chloe is telling her what she wants to hear. She never questions whether Chloe might have ulterior motives and that the biggest mistake she makes bringing Chloe into her life--and her marriage--might not be that she couldn't handle the truth, after all, especially after Chloe bumps into Michael, Catherine's son, at her surgery one afternoon.

Julianne Moore is excellent in the role of Catherine but the characters of David and Michael are too bland, fading easily into the background. Amanda Seyfried, meanwhile, does a good job of looking beautiful--if you like slim, wide-eyed blondes with long legs and huge, succulent lips (which I guess isn't an entirely unattractive thought for many men)--but doesn't convince as the enigmatic tart-with-a-heart or the spurned woman. Perhaps that's part of the problem. At the beginning of the film, Chloe voices over that she can be whoever you want her to be--first kiss, 7th grade teacher, daughter--but ultimately, the audience has no idea who she is or where she came from. I would be interested to see the French film Nathalie on which Chloe is based; with Fanny Ardant as Catherine, Gérard Depardieu as her husband, and Emmanuelle Béart as the eponymous Nathalie, it sounds interesting.

On the plus side, Mychael Danna's score was great and definitely helped to add tension to the scenes in which it might otherwise have been lacking. There were also some great songs by a band whose name I can't remember--a band which Chloe recommends to Michael as one worth checking out. Unfortunately, until the film goes out on general release, I'm probably not going to be able to find out their name.


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