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Tuesday
May252010

Script to Screen Review // Chloe

BY ERIC CORSON 

writer bio

Chloe is an excellent example of how great performers can enhance a script and how expert editing can keep it from stalling. However, it is not a good showcase of how to build and explore characters and relationships.

The story is simple. Catherine (Julianne Moore), a middle-aged gynecologist, suspects that her husband David (Liam Neeson) is cheating on her. She hires Chloe (Amanda Seyfried), a young and irresistible escort, to tempt David to sleep with her, thus proving that he is unfaithful. This plan, of course, backfires and it is Catherine who in the end is accused of having an affair.

Director Atom Egoyan, whose career seems exclusively comprised of sexually obsessed psychological thrillers, shoots Chloe in a calm style, leaving it to the leading ladies' fearless performances to carry the movie over the finish line. If they don't succeed in doing so, it is because the writing lacks substance.

Yet, writer Erin Cressida Wilson wanted to make sure that every emotional beat in the script (this version dated 7/31/08) was fully clear and understandable. There are a lot of reaction shots and obvious metaphors. However, most of these metaphors have been dropped from the movie.

There is one brief scene that exemplifies how the rock solid performances simplify the sometimes heavy-handed script. Chloe tells Catherine that she gave David a hand job in the park. Catherine, of course, thinks this has gone way too far and storms off. But her car won't start. Chloe zips by on her bike at the exact moment that a car door opens; crashing into it, Chloe falls to the ground. Catherine, being a doctor, treats the wound on Chloe's leg. Get the metaphor?

What takes up three paragraphs in the script is quite a little moment on screen. Catherine sits in her car, storm clouds over her head, while Chloe drives by on her bike. She slips on the ice on the ground and falls down. This may seem insignificant, but there are a lot of examples like this in the script. With Moore and Seyfried, a few looks are enough to convey emotions. We don't need all this obvious physical action.

But with Egoyan in control, even a little scene like that has to be sexy. In the script, Catherine rips open Chloe's pantyhose where the wound is so she can bandage it. In the film, Chloe takes it off altogether. Catherine gets aroused.

All in all, the film's editing streamlines the story. But it doesn't solve the real problem with this script. The characters are shallow and Wilson has a really hard time handling the relationships. The script starts with Catherine and David as a typical alienated couple. As soon as Chloe steps into the picture, the story morphs into a sexually laden power-play between Catherine and Chloe. David gets totally sidelined and conveniently only reappears in the third act to add a twist to the story we had been seeing coming all along.

There is also an awkward romance between Chloe and Catherine's son, Michael. From the moment Chloe sees him for the first time we know exactly what is going to happen (she seduces him to get back at Catherine) and Wilson doesn't even try to hide the fact that this is merely a writer's device to artificially raise up the stakes and make the act three climax more shocking.

Chloe is ultimately disappointing because at its core, the script is painfully shallow. We never tap into truly dangerous territory with Catherine's and Chloe's relationship. It’s a shame that David's character virtually disappears 30 minutes into the film. It would have been interesting to see the changes in Catherine and David's married life as perceptions shift.

In the end, it's all a mind game. A clever one, but still nothing of substance. So which one is better. Script or film? Watch the movie. Egoyan is a very capable director and the story feels less forced.

(Chloe (2010) Screenplay by Erin Cressida Wilson. 7/31/08 Polish submit. Currently playing at AMC Empire 25.)

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