Amanda Seyfried, in 'Chloe'

Dir. Atom Egoyan
(2010, R, 96 min)
★ ★

At first, the title character in Chloe is an intriguing mystery. After an opening scene in which she discusses her profession — the world’s oldest — in voice-over, she meets Catherine Stewart (Julianne Moore), who soon comes to her with an unusual proposition. Catherine suspects her husband, David (Liam Neeson), of infidelity and hires Chloe to entice him. What will he do when presented with an opportunity?

Amanda Seyfried, who has come a long way since her best-forgotten stint on All My Children seven years ago, plays Chloe with cagey ambivalence — not ambivalence about her job, but about this strange, angry, fearful woman who has come to her for reasons unlike her usual clients. Catherine doesn’t want a thrill, or a fling, or a fantasy. She wants a reckoning.

In these early scenes, Seyfried plays Chloe as cautious but calm, intelligent and aware. She tries to get a fix on Catherine, trying to intuit what she really wants, as opposed to what she says or thinks she wants. Chloe is skilled, she tells us in the opening voice-over, in using words: telling people what they want to hear, avoiding what they don’t, being everything to everyone.

The film navigates tricky psychological waters, crossed wires of eroticism and betrayal, and director Atom Egoyan sets a tone of dreamy anxiety. Unfortunately, as the story intensifies, it drifts into melodrama, flattens its characters, and finally goes off the rails. Chloe, once tantalizingly inscrutable, is reduced to a familiar type, and the climax is a sensationalized mess. I think the last shot is meant to have great implications, but by then it just seems arbitrary, an image with the appearance of great import but unconvincing, a last stab at meaning for a film that has lost its grasp of it.