There is no explicit relation between the two films featured in this edition of Movie Night In—only that they both star some of my most favorite performers at the moment, as well as explore some complexities of the female psyche. In a broader sense, there’s also the facts that one is a French film and the other is an American remake of a French film.
2009’s Chloe, directed by Atom Egoyan, is a sexy and surprising thriller with an arthouse feel and big-name stars. A remake of the 2004 French film Nathalie…, Chloe revolves around betrayal and seduction and how they can destroy everything in its path.
David (Liam Neeson) and Catherine Stewart (Julianne Moore) hold highly-regarded career positions—he as a college professor and she as a gynecologist, raising a teenage son (Max Thieriot) and generally living comfortable lives. When David suddenly misses his surprise birthday party and becomes more out-of-touch with his wife, Catherine suspects it’s because he’s cheating. To seek the truth, she hires a decoy, a prostitute named Chloe (Amanda Seyfried), to seduce David and then report back to her. The job gets done, but things are unexpectedly and dangerously pushed past its limits, and the truth may not be all what it seems.
The film leaves a lot of unanswered questions that could have easily been answered with a better script, and by the end, one could be feeling unfulfilled and that the film was without closure. It’s an extremely intriguing story that falls a little bit flat and doesn’t reach its full potential. But the mystery keeps viewers tuned in, and the visuals are beautifully shot. The acting is a definite highlight. Moore and Neeson give emotionally intense performances, though are somewhat held back (Particularly the latter actor) by the average screenplay. And even though it’s nowhere near an award-worthy performance, Seyfried is very impressive as the title character. Particularly known for playing the dumb mean girl in Mean Girls and the damsel in distress in Dear John and Letters to Juliet, she takes a new turn in her career as a dark, haunting, and psychotic femme fatale. She could have fallen into the character a little bit more, but it was enough to make the audience feel a little frightened and anticipate her next crazy move.
Despite some holes throughout the script, the stars carry the story of Chloe, a nicely-done yet deliciously twisted film about crimes of passion and startling obsession.
OVERALL SCORE: 7/10
That leaves the French film, the 2007 biopic La Vie en Rose, which tells the dramatic life story of the iconic singer Edith Piaf. Directed by Olivier Dahan, the film’s subject is phenomenally portrayed by Marion Cotillard in an Oscar-winning performance that spans from Piaf’s late teen years to her death at age 47.
The nonlinear narrative is incredibly detailed and raw, documenting Piaf’s rise from a blind child living in unstable households (Alcoholic mother, a father absent due to war, a paternal grandmother who worked as a madam), to being a young street singer in exchange for not working as a prostitute, to blooming as “The Little Sparrow,” France’s most beloved star vocalist. But even as she grew older and more well-known, trouble continued to follow her. Drugs became a vice of hers and she had a tragic love affair with boxer Marcel Cerdan (Jean-Pierre Martins). It is also later revealed that she had only one child at a young age and lost her at a young age. The film immensely explores Piaf’s multifaceted and complex personality throughout the years as she lived her life without regrets, as one of her signature hits “Non, je ne regrette rien” says, as well as her relationships with family, friends, acquaintances, professional team, and lovers.
There are a couple of points where you just want the film to move along, but the story of Piaf’s life and the way it is presented is so captivating as it is sad that you can’t resist wanting to relish every minute of it—and those minutes are moving. Other than Piaf’s gorgeous music, La Vie en Rose sits on the shoulder of Cotillard, who immerses herself beyond recognition to become one with the woman. The great lengths she goes through—conveying the extremes of all emotions, playing her as she aged badly over 20 years—is mesmerizing and makes for one of the most outstanding performances in film. It’s as if we’re watching Piaf and not someone else playing her in the role, and when we see someone else other than the performer on screen, it’s a sure sign of an excellent actor.
Though a mostly melancholy movie about the difficult life of a superstar, Cotillard’s vivid and strong performance and the music of Piaf in La Vie en Rose will liven up eyes to a life that was fully lived, influenced a culture, and left a legacy.
OVERALL SCORE: 9/10