Chloe -- Film Review

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TORONTO -- Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan has long had the respect of his international peers, earning countless accolades including Oscar nominations for 1997's "The Sweet Hereafter."

But he has never enjoyed the type of commercial success that is certain to come with the compelling "Chloe."

A sexually charged melodrama starring Julianne Moore as a distrustful wife who deliberately leads flirtatious husband Liam Neeson into temptation in order to confirm her suspicions, the cleverly constructed film manages the neat feat of containing all ingredients of a potential hit while remaining true to Egoyan's body of work.

Developed by Ivan Reitman's Montecito Picture Co. (man of the hour Jason Reitman serves as an executive producer), "Chloe" is in fact a remake of the 2003 French film "Nathalie," starring Fanny Ardant and Gerard Depardieu.

It's extremely unlikely that the film will emerge from the Toronto International Film Festival, where it had its world premiere, without getting several distributors hot and bothered.

Moore's Catherine is a gynecologist with a busy practice in Toronto's upscale Yorkville district who lives in a fabulous home with her handsome professor husband, David (Neeson).

When David misses a flight home from New York and, in the process, his surprise birthday party, Catherine has reason to suspect he's having an affair and puts her theory to the test after a fateful encounter with an alluring young female escort (a breakout Amanda Seyfried).

Initially, Catherine hires her to "run into" David at his favorite coffee shop to see if he'd be willing to take the bait, but the experiment spirals out of her control as Chloe relates their subsequent encounters in graphic detail.

Not only is Catherine unable to call a halt to the reported infidelities, doe-eyed Chloe ultimately manages to draw both Catherine and their teenage son (Max Thieriot) into the increasingly complex equation.

Moore and Neeson (who had been shooting the film at the time of the death of his wife, Natasha Richardson) beautifully underplay their roles, lending screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson's ("Secretary") dialogue an unexpected, palpable poignancy.

But it's Seyfried -- also represented at the festival in "Jennifer's Body" -- who makes a major impression, adeptly navigating the twists and turns of her character's not-so-apparent motivations.

She's definitely emerging as Toronto's 2009 It girl.

Egoyan expertly counterbalances the film's heated impulses with the cool visual sophistication of the angular, sparse production design (with assist from frequent collaborator Phillip Barker), and his customary use of actual locations lends a hint of credibility to those sordid goings-on.

Venue: Toronto International Film Festival
Production companies: StudioCanal, Montecito Picture Co.
Sales: StudioCanal
No MPAA rating, 99 minutes
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