The necessities of the thriller genre demand that Chloe remains a mystery, even after the film ends. It's unfortunate, because like a lot of thrillers the plot hangs together by threads and really the central conceit is ridiculous when you take a step back and think about it. Julianne Moore starts to suspect that her husband Liam Neeson is having an affair, and (very randomly) finds a sex worker played by Amanda Seyfried to try and seduce him in order to prove to herself that he is a serial philanderer. But Chloe turns out to be very capable at seduction, and is ultimately more interested in Julianne Moore than anyone could have guessed.

But why? Egoyan's Exotica proved that the filmmaker has an interest in the strange things broken people do in order to put themselves back together again. And it feels like Chloe is one of these people. We only get inside her head at the beginning of the film, through voiceover, where we're told of her awesome powers of knowing exactly what people want, and giving it to them. What's left is a hole which Chloe seeks to fill by ingratiating herself into the lives of a fabulously successful middle-class family, and tearing them apart.

We know nothing about Chloe's background, but sex work isn't often very glamourous even if you're at the upper end of the market, and I wonder whether her machinations aren't partly motivated by resentment. The film luxuriates in the accumulated capital of the unsuspecting family – they have an ostentatiously-designed house, beautiful furniture, and they spend all of their time in fancy restaurants. This is a film about well-off people having marital problems (the dullest genre of contemporary fiction), but then the added ingredient is someone on the very margins of society looking in and seeing what she doesn't have.

Maybe class envy is a reach too far, although it does make the film's glossy sophistication a tad more bearable. There is instead a throwaway reference Chloe makes to her mother's hairpin, which the film makes symbolically significant. Chloe lied about the hairpin previously, but perhaps the connection with her mother is true, in which case her wish to give it to Julianne Moore may be inspired by a need for a replacement mother, or a route into a family she doesn't have.

The last shot of the film shows that Moore has accepted that gift, even when Chloe is no longer there. Chloe has been turned into a thing, which just highlights that for much of the film that's all she was. But at least that thing now finally starts to have a meaning for Moore. Chloe is no longer just a tool or a vessel for other people's desires, but someone with desires of her own. In the erotic thriller genre, the femme fatale's motives are usually malevolent, but here it's Chloe that's ultimately the most out-of-control and desperate, even if Julianne Moore is the one that looks like her life is falling apart. Accepting the gift is an act of forgiveness, and perhaps also a recognition of Chloe's subjectivity, even if it remains largely elusive to her, and us.

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