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Guilty pleasure
Erotic film full of talent is hard to take seriously

There is a supposedly erotic moment in Atom Egoyan's ridiculous but entertaining "Chloe" that elicited a couple of spontaneous and unintentional guffaws at the critic's screening. I wouldn't dream of spoiling it for you, so let's just say it involves shoes and leave it at that.

The point is that this is not a serious film. In fact, it's an absurd combination of "Fatal Attraction" and "Poison Ivy" that is assured of audience and media attention because the most memorable moment in this dirty-minded soap is a nude love scene with Julianne Moore and Amanda Seyfried.

Bless Atom Egoyan. At the age of 49, he still believes in sex at the movies after three decades of moviemaking. You'd have thought that the great Canadian/Egyptian director of "The Sweet Hereafter" (and producer of "Adoration") had gotten all this out of his system years ago with "Exotica," but he's still fascinated by erotic attractions and what good old Goethe called "elective affinities."

So here are two of the more beautiful women in movies who also happen to be very powerful actresses. Moore is a great and profoundly moving actress who, among other things, has never had any problem with film nudity. Young Amanda Seyfried is a stunning beauty with huge eyes, big lips, a "hot" reputation among readers of FHM and an acting talent that trumps all of that when it's allowed to (see "Dear John," a lesser "chick flick" that she carried on her capable back the whole way).

Her talent isn't allowed to function here. What you've got then are very talented performers shamelessly manipulated by an erotic imagination that is pretending to tell a story about upper class marital dysfunction. (The script writer, by the way, is a woman -- Erin Cressida Wilson. The film is a remake of a French film.)

Moore plays a gynecologist who seems to know everything about sex except how to keep it fresh in her own marriage, which has cooled off considerably now that she and her husband have a college-age son who, somewhat improbably, plays both hockey and Beethoven piano sonatas in recital.

She does and does and does for her family, but no one seems to care anymore.

Her husband (Liam Neeson) is a respected academic who lectures on Mozart's "Don Giovanni" and is hit on all the time by beautiful female students. He may or may not be sleeping around, but his wife thinks he is.

Seyfried is a young prostitute who meets the gynecologist one day when -- no kidding -- her stall next door in the ladies room runs out of paper. To find out how promiscuous her husband is exactly the doc winds up hiring her to tempt him. Think of TV's Z-grade TV show "Cheaters" dressed up in French winks and couture.

The young prostitute comes back with hot stories, absurdly phrased with sentences right out of soft-core porn and Harlequin romances. We in the audience suspect she's totally wacko but the doc doesn't seem to. Apparently she doesn't go to movies much.

And then the movie takes an interesting turn that a great director might have done something with. The doc has sex with the deranged young woman because she's a stand-in for her husband and knows his boudoir ways.

Very kinky. But interesting.

And then, of course, the movie falls apart into "Poison Ivy" Seduce The Whole Family territory.

It's completely ludicrous on more than a few occasions, but I'd never claim I didn't have a fine time hooting, howling and scoffing. The star rating here isn't for quality but perverse entertainment value.

I suspect that its own principal performers privately hoot and howl and scoff and giggle at the movie, too.

e-mail: jsimon@buffnews.com

***

CHLOE

3 stars (out of 4)

STARRING: Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson and Amanda Seyfried

DIRECTOR: Atom Egoyan

RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes

RATING: R for language and a good deal of nudity and sex

THE LOWDOWN: Beautiful and disturbed young prostitute wreaks havoc on an upscale family in Toronto