Sex, lies and melodrama

“Chloe” is filled with the overused cinematic rhetoric of adultery and loneliness: the wife remains stoic when her husband doesn’t return home for his surprise birthday party; the husband’s phone reveals vague yet flirty e-mails from female students; when she walks into the room, he minimizes his IM windows.

In fact, much of “Chloe” is full of trite formulas. Amanda Seyfried plays the titular hooker with a kind heart — as she services clients, she tries “to find something to love about everybody.” Julianne Moore stars as Catherine, a desperately lonely mother frustrated that her desirability decreases with age, while her distant husband (Liam Neeson) becomes more distinguished. As Catherine begins to believe her husband is cheating on her, she hires Chloe to seduce him to confirm her suspicions. (This turns out to be as terrible an idea, as one would expect.) As her relationship with Catherine develops, Chloe’s true intentions and her involvement with Catherine’s husband and son become complicated.

Hardly anything in the movie feels original or unexpected, but the performances make the most tired caricature feel fresh. Moore portrays a loneliness that is so palpable that her smallest wince can break your heart. Seyfried’s Chloe is so irresistible and intriguing that her faults are easily forgotten.

The movie succeeds the most when Seyfried and Moore share the screen — a tête-à-tête of actresses that evokes the legendary Dench and Blanchett in “Notes on a Scandal.” The trailer exploits the pair’s romance in order to titillate, but it feels organic and utterly necessary in the narrative. They seamlessly transition their dynamic from that of client and employer to mother and daughter to lovers.

“Chloe” is the latest in a remarkably diverse workload for Seyfriend and Moore. In the past year, Seyfried has played everything from an idyllic love interest to a musical lead to a nerdy high schooler in a horror film. Her explicit and mature role as Chloe cements just how stunning her range as an actress is. Similarly, Moore continues to explore every kind of role imaginable. Only months ago, she was fabulously alive in “A Single Man” — in “Chloe,” it’s only your common sense that reminds you she is alive.

The film is something of a waste of the talent. The plot spirals out of control into a bombastic and completely ridiculous finale. Just as the film begins to draw you in with its simplicity, the script blows up into the stuff of C-list psychological thrillers. But Chloe’s theory rings true: you must look no further than Seyfried and Moore to “find something to love.”

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