Chloe, a sexually tense drama, explores issues of fidelity, connection, and desire. Director Atom Egoyan uses the movie to explore what lurks beneath the surface of society, and even of people's intentions, and how it can rise and consume.

Catherine Stewart (Julianne Moore) should have a good life. She has a rewarding job as a gynecologist, her good-looking husband David (Liam Neeson) is a professor of classical music and opera, and her teenage son Michael (Max Thieriot) is doing better in therapy after some unspecified incident. Catherine has a beautiful house, lots of friends -- and suspicions. Catherine notices David flirting with almost every woman he meets ("I'm just being friendly," he answers), and his missing a plane home for his birthday increases Catherine's suspicions, especially after finding a message from a young female student to him the next day.

What's a concerned wife to do? Catherine comes up with an unusual plan. She hires Chloe (Amanda Seyfried), a streetwalker Catherine sees working by her office, to flirt with David, see if and how he responds, and then report what happens back to Catherine. Chloe is fine with this, treating it like just another business proposition. Things quickly get complicated, as Chloe goes way beyond what Catherine asked her to do with David, Chloe becomes more involved in Catherine's life, and Catherine keeps hiring Chloe even after learning what she said she wanted to find out.

While sexuality is a very large part of Chloe, this movie is more about the passions, or lack thereof, of the various characters. Moore makes Catherine a conflicted and suspicious woman, someone out to discover the truth but not willing to stop once she finds it. As for Sevigny, her character is, first and foremost, manipulative. She rattles off very explicit details of her tryst with a bored voice, yet she keeps drawing Catherine along into her world. Sevigny delivers a nice performance, keeping her character from becoming either a selfish gold digger or a streetwalker with a heart of gold. Liam Neeson has the least to do, spending most of the movie as a cipher: Is he cheating, or is Catherine imagining it as she wades through a world filled with beautiful young women.

The plot of Chloe goes overboard towards the end, as tensions and discoveries get blown up into psycho-obsessiveness, but until then this is an intriguing movie. Chloe uses the possibility of cheating as the opening for what people lack, want, and wind up needing from their partners and for themselves. This movie is very explicit -- both verbally and visually -- but at its core Chloe is about people discovering what they can't even admit they're looking for.

(Dvd extras are standard: interviews with the cast, plus movie commentaries.)

Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch

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