Richard speaks to “CTV News at 11:30” anchor Pauline Chan about the best movies and television to watch this weekend. This week we have a look at the third season of “The Umbrella Academy” on Netflix, the animated Crave werewolf series “Supernatural Academy,” the psychological thriller “Chloe” on Amazon Prime and the big screen biopic “Elvis.”
Richard appears on “CTV News at 6” with anchor Pauline Chan to talk about the best movies and television to watch this weekend. This week he has a look at the third season of “The Umbrella Academy” on Netflix, the animated Crave werewolf series “Supernatural Academy,” the psychological thriller “Chloe” on Amazon Prime and the big screen biopic “Elvis.”
In Chloe, the new psychological thriller from Canadian director Atom Egoyan, Amanda Seyfried plays an escort hired by Catherine (Julianne Moore) to test her husband’s (Liam Neeson) fidelity.
Following starring roles in Mean Girls, Mama Mia and the popular HBO show Big Love, this is her first real adult part. It’s a complicated and showy role for the twenty-five-year-old actress, and she credits Egoyan with pushing her to deepen the character by exploring every facet of Chloe’s life.
“It’s a broad spectrum of emotions the audience feels about her,” she says, “and in order to make the audience feel that way you have to play it right and in order for me to play it right I had to have Atom Egoyan.
“Mr. Egoyan,” she continues, “is a genius and he’s what good filmmaking is all about. I know it’s going to be difficult for me to choose my next project based on what I just went through with him. It has raised the bar into a very high place.”
It’s obvious that Seyfried admires Egoyan, but it appears to be a mutual appreciation society. In a separate interview the director called the actress’s audition “exceptional.”
“There were a lot more famous people than her we considered but she was our gal,” he said. “We knew that from the moment we did the audition. There was just something about her. Fortunately in the intervening period she suddenly became a star with Mama Mia.”
Her star was on the rise before they made the film, but on the first day Egoyan had a moment of doubt.
“I have this reputation for hiring very young actresses,” he says, “and the day she arrived in Toronto, I thought, ‘My God, she’s a child. We’ve made a mistake.’ But we needed the separation in age between Julianne [Moore] and her. That was really very important.”
Any doubts were soon quashed when Seyfried went to work, however.
“She’s a really good actress. She really grew into the role,” he says. “It’s about a relationship you have with some actors. You feel like you are doing your job because you are able to ignite something they are capable of expressing. I don’t mean to in anyway objectify, but it’s like working with a beautiful instrument. That’s what she has.”
Since shooting her breakout performance in Mama Mia! in Greece, 24-year-old actress Amanda Seyfried has spent a lot of time in Canada.
Her two TIFF films this year were both shot in Maple Leaf land, but on opposite ends of the country. Jennifer’s Body was lensed in Vancouver and Chloe, her film with director Atom Egoyan, in Toronto.
“We actually got to use Toronto as a real setting,” she said. “You don’t normally get to do that because you’re usually using it to cover for another town or masking it as a made up town.
“(Using Toronto as Toronto) makes everything feel more real. It’s difficult for anything to seem completely authentic when you’re on a movie set but this is as real as it has ever gotten for me.”
In Chloe, Seyfried plays an escort hired by Catherine (Julianne Moore) to test her husband’s (Liam Neeson) fidelity. It’s her first real adult role and one that proves she’s capable of more than teen musicals or comedies.
She credits working with Egoyan with pushing her to deepen the character by exploring every facet of Chloe’s life.
“I’ve never worked with anyone who has discussed the character so in-depth with me,” she says. “Atom would reiterate things to me with different descriptions and with a twist from what he had said last time. Every time we’d go for dinner or have lunch or sit down for coffee the first thing he would go to was, ‘I was thinking that Chloe would do this or that.’
“It was almost completely overwhelming in the beginning but he couldn’t have said less because I don’t think I would have captured it otherwise.”
Chloe is a complicated character with many notes to her personality but with Egoyan’s help Seyfried brings her vividly to life on screen.
“It’s a broad spectrum of emotions the audience feels about her,” she says, “and in order to make the audience feel that way you have to play it right and in order for me to pay it right I had to have Atom Egoyan.
In order for a movie like this to work you have to have someone like Atom Egoyan and there aren’t many people out there like him.
“Mr. Egoyan is a genius and he’s what good filmmaking is all about. I know it’s going to be difficult for me to choose my next project based on what I just went through with him. It has raised the bar into a very high place.”
Despite being a remake of a French film the new movie from Atom Egoyan bears all the earmarks of the director’s work. Continuing his career long examination of sexual taboos and miscommunication he’s made a movie that is part sexual Scheherazade, part Single White Female but is also his most straightforward movie in years.
Starring Amanda Seyfried as an escort hired by Catherine (Julianne Moore) to test her husband’s (Liam Neeson) fidelity, it’s a steamy thriller the director calls “an extreme examination of how to re-eroticize a marriage.” Add to that a layer of sexual obsession and you get a film that feels like a throwback to the erotic thrillers of a couple of decades ago.
Egoyan has crafted a feature that breathes the same air as Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct; films made when the director was busy making his own subtly sexual films like Exotica. At the time Roger Ebert wrote, “There is a quality in all of his work that resists the superficial and facile. Even at the very start, he wasn’t interested in simple storytelling.” Until now, Roger, until now.
There is no question that Egoyan is as gifted a filmmaker as we have working in this country, but Chloe, I’m afraid doesn’t denote a high-water mark in his filmography.
He does, however, bring much to the table.
The film is gorgeous to look at—from the beauty shots of Toronto, to the collective “wowness” of the cast. To match the rich visuals he’s brought his own sensibility to the story, and instead of simply remaking Nathalie, the French film Chloe is based on, he has populated the plot with strong female characters. And, as befits any erotic thriller there are twists and turns galore. Unfortunately most of them will be obvious to anyone who has ever read a Joe Eszterhas script and that is the film’s Achilles’ Heel.
The movie’s closing moments play like a predictable b-movie, albeit a highbrow one, but a b-movie nonetheless.
Chloe marks the first time Egoyan has worked from a script that he didn’t write and despite its angels—nice performances and beautiful photography—it made me yearn for the auteur of the Exotica years who would have made an uncompromising movie with a more dramatic ending.
The most successful English language remake of a French film is Three Men and a Baby, a 1987 comedy that raked in $167,780,960 at the box office. In today’s dollars, that would be … well, a lot of money. The least profitable remake is the Peter Falk film Happy New Year, a reworking of the 1973 movie La bonne année, which brought in a paltry $41,232. The new Atom Egoyan film Chloe, a reimagining of Gérard Depardieu’s Nathalie that debuts at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, is likely hoping to fall somewhere comfortably between the two.
English remakes of popular French films have proven popular with North American audiences, but Encore Hollywood author Lucy Mazdon wonders whether the remake “can be considered as a positive form of cross-cultural exchange or if in fact it threatens the identity of the originals.” Chloe’s mix of homage to the original plus Egoyan’s signature style ensures that it strides the line between original work and respectful remake, but not all French adaptations have been so successful.
I don’t think anyone would argue that Richard Pryor’s The Toy, a flaccid early ’80s remake of Le jouet, improved on the original, or that Richard Gere in Breathless was anything other than a pale imitation of the effortless cool Jean-Paul Belmondo oozed in À bout de soufflé. Even the addition of authentically French actress Valérie Kaprisky in the role originally played by the iconic Jean Seberg couldn’t get this turkey out of second gear.
Not all French to English revisions are budget-bin movies, however. Terry Gilliam took on a recognized classic when he made Twelve Monkeys. The 1962 film La jetée earns a near-perfect score on IMDB and its story of life in a devastated Paris in the aftermath of WWIII is described by one contributor as “experimental, elegiac, profound, beautiful, and mysterious.” Those are big shoes to fill, but Gilliam meets the task head on in his Oscar-nominated film. Twelve Monkeys is at once a remake and a completely original work that, as Roger Ebert wrote, creates “a universe that is contained within 130 minutes.”
And finally, also worth a rent is True Lies, the James Cameron shoot ’em up, loosely based on Claude Zidi’s La totale!, the French comedy about a wife who discovers her husband works for the French secret services.
Cameron upped the flashiness of the story, but the original has many pleasures, including great dialogue and many good gags.