Movie Reviews: Chloe, Hot Tub Time Machine, Waking Sleeping Beauty 

Also Sweetgrass, West of Pluto, Vincere and more

Thursday, Mar 25 2010

CHLOE Atom Egoyan's Chloe is posh, cool and never less than obvious. Work for hire, the movie was adapted by Erin Cressida Wilson from Anne Fontaine's marital thriller Nathalie ..., a sophisticated Gallic shrug-fest hailed by some for featuring an adulterous triangle unimaginable in an American movie. Successful gynecologist Catherine (Julianne Moore) suspects, not without reason, that her husband, the distinguished professor, David (Liam Neeson), is having affairs with his students; in lieu of a detective, she hires the fresh-faced young hooker who calls herself Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) to entrap him. Before long, the enigmatic child is giving Catherine a detailed account of her relations with David. The story doesn't make much sense, but the client is turned on, Moore miming arousal with the wide-eyed passion of a silent-movie queen. Asked by Catherine how she does her job, Chloe explains that she tries "to find something to love in everybody." I take that as a message to the critic. Egoyan seems to have accepted this assignment in the spirit of Douglas Sirk directing soft-core porn: Chloe puts quotation marks around its tantalizing nudity, caressing camera moves and rhapsodic music. The grotesque finale aside, it's all too soigne to be truly risible but, thanks to Egoyan's trademark mix of detachment and prurience, the fun is more cheesy than queasy. (J. Hoberman) (AMC Century City, ArcLight, Playhouse 7)

GO  THE ECLIPSE The Eclipse is a curious Irish ghost story that fiddles with the recipe just enough to produce interesting results. Solidly built and middle-aged, Michael Farr (Ciarán Hinds) isn't the kind of vulnerable-looking nightgown-clencher usually cast to jump at bumps in the night — and it's a not-yet-departed spirit that first harasses him. Working for a literary festival in his hometown of picturesque Cobh, widower Farr begins a shy flirtation with a visiting authoress, Lena (Iben Hjejle), and winds up competing for her affections with best-seller brat Nicholas Holden (Aidan Quinn's enjoyment of playing such a lavishly awful American is infectious). Here are the makings of a poshly photographed grown-up romance — except, just as you're sufficiently becalmed by one of the recurring parentheses of choral music and solitary drift (director Conor McPherson's mood-setting feels suspiciously like padding at times), a bloodied ghoul jumps out. Michael shows Lena the local sights, and they form figures-in-a-landscape compositions before the low whorled clouds, clean waterfront houses, and the cathedral that towers over Cobh, as inescapable as the unarticulated guilt that shadows Michael. The Eclipse is the simultaneous revelation of a place and a man, with their shared history, and it plays by virtue of Hinds, his face a hewn and weathered monument to regret. (Nick Pinkerton) (Sunset 5, Monica 4-Plex, Playhouse 7, Town Center)

GAY.COM TRIPLE BILL II In its second rollout of a queer-film triple bill, Gay.com offers another mixed bag of fare. The weakest of the trio is Raúl Marchand Sánchez's insipid Puerto Rican farce Manuela y Manuel, in which a grating drag queen reluctantly agrees to masquerade as the boyfriend of his fag-hag so her macho father won't disown her — she's pregnant from a one-night stand with a soldier and can't bring a bastard baby home. Overstuffed with crudely drawn, broadly acted secondary characters (and tricked out with flat drag musical numbers), Manuela aspires to be about love, friendship, and good hearts triumphing. But it's actually a grim reminder that formulaic queer cinema is a global plague. Far stronger is James Bolton's Dream Boy, in which a couple of teen boys in a small, very religious Southern town navigate the pangs of first queer love. The film evokes tension right from the start, as the viewer waits for violence to rear its head; it eventually does, in ways expected and not. The film's biggest problem is that in trying to capture a laid-back Southern pace, it's often stilted, and the supernatural elements in the third act don't quite mesh. Still, it's good to see Diana Scarwid working, even if she's a tad too tremulous as an understandably anxious mom, and Max Roeg (as one of the boys) has something of the beauty and off-kilter screen presence of his real-life mom (Theresa Russell). Just Say Love, though marred by a groan-inducing wish-fulfillment ending and a thudding mid-film montage of artsy poses, is in some ways the most satisfying film on the lineup. That's due to the performances of its sole actors, Matthew Jaeger and Robert Mammana, as a brainy gay man and the macho, hetero construction worker he falls for. Based on a play, the film is shot on bare-bones theater sets, throwing character and dialogue front and center. Said dialogue is decent, occasionally insightful, and not especially remarkable, but the actors bite into it with relish. The film's real strength, though, is the palpable chemistry between Jaeger and Mammana, which smoothly and convincingly oscillates from lust to frustration to a love that throws both men off their game. (Ernest Hardy) (Sunset 5)

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