American audiences are prudes! I’m sorry, but it’s true. If you get too sexy, or even too sensual, you’re called a pornographer and relegated to the kinds of theaters where they sell wine and cheese at the concession stand and you feel guilty for buying a ticket because you know the minute you walk in the theater you’ll be surrounded by hipsters and douche bags.
I bring this up in light of the trailer for Atom Egoyan’s new sexy thriller, “Chloe.” The film focuses on Catherine (Julianne Moore) and David (Liam Neeson), a happy middle-aged couple with one exception: Catherine is batshit insane! After suspecting David of infidelity, she takes the initiative by hiring a sexy young prostitute, Chloe (Amanda Seyfried), to try to seduce her husband. As Chloe’s encounters with David increase in frequency and intensity, the whole deal spirals into unnavigable chaos.
Sexiness aside, there are some things that have undoubtedly been done right. I couldn’t imagine a better cast. Julianne Moore has proven herself to be a virtuoso at playing crazy people (Exhibit A: the pharmacy scene in P.T. Anderson’s opus, “Magnolia;” Exhibit B: Maude Lebowski in the Coen brothers’ “The Big Lebowski), and I don’t think she’ll disappoint us now. I’m glad to see Liam Neeson playing a role that is decidedly more gentle than his most recent ones (i.e. “Taken”). But most of all, it’s wonderful to see that the delightful Amanda Seyfried is being treated as a big girl. She was hilarious in her breakout role in “Mean Girls,” she’s stunning on the HBO series “Big Love,” but here, it looks like she is being given the opportunity to explore new terrain: the sexy, deathly world of the femme fatale.
That said, there are some major worries here. The film has the potential to be triumphantly and heartbreakingly sensual if Egoyan isn’t too afraid of alienating the more conservative audience members. From the preview, it appears as though the film’s marketing team is trying to straddle the line between the “erotic” and the “thriller” aspects of “erotic thriller,” and this simply will not do.
For a movie like this to really succeed, those two elements must be inseparable from one another. The sex must be the danger; the danger, the sex. We need to see the characters expose themselves and each other; we need to see the niceties of everyday encounters stripped away, and in a case like this, that means that we will almost definitely need to see some skin and hear some heavy breathing. The trailer can obviously only intimate the sex scenes–a shot of Seyfried in sexy lingerie, another of Moore’s dress being unzipped–but the true test of mastery of the erotic thriller for me is the balance between the sex and the non-sex: the way the two reinforce and contradict each other to create a drama of human jealousy and savagery.
“Chloe” hits theaters March 26; with any luck, this won’t be a movie you’ll be able to see with your parents.