This film’s premise alone was sufficient to make me curious enough to buy a ticket the day it came out in theaters. The movie unfolds around Catherine (Julianne Moore), a middle-aged woman with a seemingly-perfect wealthy suburban life and family, who suspects her husband David (Liam Neeson) of cheating. David is a music professor who enjoys the company of his young female students, with whom he exchanges flirtatious conversations and text messages. Midway through the film, we find out that the couple’s son, Michael (Max Theriot), is experiencing overly dramatic teenage angst, which greatly affects the mood in the household. The marriage is distant and cold, creating reasonable grounds for Catherine’s fears. Catherine begins to find clues that encourage her fears and resolves to do something about it. Instead of following the conventional course of confronting her husband, or, let’s say, stalking him, she does the following: witnessing a young prostitute (Amanda Seyfried) working near her office, Catherine hires her to see if her husband will give in to seduction. Catherine immediately sets up a meeting with this prostitute, who claims to be named Chloe, and the two agree on an intricate plan. After Chloe has several encounters with David, she reports back to Catherine in descriptive and graphic detail. Catherine listens in shock but also in complete awe, which leads to a very complicated dynamic between the two women. The previews show that David is seduced, but is it more complicated than that? Furthermore, how is the relationship between Catherine and Chloe affected by these explicit conversations?
Atom Egoyan, a young Egyptian director, creates a visually striking and sexually charged depiction of the ends to which deception can lead. The art direction is exquisite, and the Canadian city where the story unfolds is picturesquely shot. Though it possesses hints of a detective movie, this movie is also not for the sexually squeamish. To be honest, I don’t know how it got away with an R rating. The sex scenes take up the majority of the movie and are stretched out in a painfully long fashion. Catherine and Chloe’s relationship becomes a central component to the love-triangle dynamic and is shown in very explicit terms. This movie is escapist at best, and the twists and turns are unexpected and overtly dramatic. The theater audience actually laughed at many of the supposedly meaningful scenes, proof enough of how seriously this movie and its actors took themselves. The acting is well executed, but it is not enough to create a respectable film with such an outrageous plot. I caught myself screaming “What?!” and shaking my head about a dozen times, in complete shock at how the story progressed. There is no way these social interactions could ever happen in real life, and accordingly it was difficult to feel sympathy or even concern for the fate of these unstable individuals. There is a definite guilty pleasure component to watching this movie, but the guilt progressed into unpleasantness after some completely ridiculous, montage-like scenes. I left the theater feeling as though my mind had been played with and perhaps even visually abused.