American Remakes: Chloe, Let Me In?
October 13, 2010
Whilst literacy levels amongst adults in the western world remain relatively high, it seems a vast majority of audiences are still averse to the act of “reading” when it comes to their cinema-going habits. Subsequently (or perhaps it is causally?), American film studios appear to be increasingly obsessed with churning out remakes of quality “foreign” films. Sometimes it takes several years and is born out of love for the original and, at others, there is a quick turnaround and a multitude of cash to be made. But whatever the motivation, remakes can’t help but fall into two overarching categories: those that stick closely to the material of the original, arguably enhancing certain aspects, and those that take liberties in an effort to either “mainstream” the film and/or express a new take on a great idea. This week’s Australian theatrical releases of Let Me In (2010) and Chloe (2009) are respectively exemplary of two such models.
LET ME IN: Aesthetically, thematically and narratively faithful to its source, Let Me In is the American remake of last year’s release of Swedish gem Let The Right One In (2008). Carefully shot and well-observed, the cinematography is strikingly similar to its inspiration and with so little narrative divergence it is almost impossible to separate the two. Well cast, Let Me In sees Chloe Moretz in the role of Abby (Eli in LTROI), a vampire who looks and acts for the most part like a pre-adolescent girl, and Kodi Smit-McPhee in the central role of Owen (Oskar in LTROI) who is a young boy trying to survive the harsh realities of an underprivileged socio-economic upbringing paired with incessant and cruel bullying at school. The relationship between the two is the true lynchpin in the original and the remake certainly achieves the same level of intimacy through its convincing and moving depiction of their shared relegation to “otherness”; from both familial and peer surroundings.
Aside from some superfluously sped-up and slightly clumsy looking CGI vampire action as well as the addition of an incredibly overwrought soundtrack that distracts from the otherwise quite beautiful imagery onscreen, Let Me In is a very decent remake indeed. With so little divergence from its original however, it will unfortunately be ultimately inconsequential to audiences who enjoyed LTROI and, given it retains certain visual and thematic art house sensibilities, might not appeal to those audiences who don’t like to read in the cinema either. A film of fine quality, it is most suitable for audiences who sit somewhere in the grey area – between Hollywood and Art House which, if nothing else, suggests filmmakers and studios are at least (and at last) aware that the idea of a “target audience” is a none-too easily definable concept.
CHLOE: Being ‘remakes’ is just about where the similarities between Chloe and Let Me In begin and end. Chloe, Atom Egoyan’s recent remake of French psychological thriller Nathalie… (2003), takes the premise and little else with it. Clear from the get-go that this he has no intention of adhering to the parameters of the original, Chloe opens with images of its title character (Amanda Seyfried) redressing after an encounter with a client set to her internal dialogue in voiceover. Already, we know the film is not so much about watching or desiring its title character as it is about its title character. This marked difference is also, unfortunately, the crux upon which the subsequent success – or indeed failure – of the film rests.
Wealthy, intelligent, attractive couple Catherine (Julianne Moore) and David Stewart (Liam Neeson) have reached breaking point in their marriage: the trust has gone and Catherine suspects David is cheating on her. Feeling alienated from her husband and consumed with irrational fear, Catherine hires Chloe – a beautiful, sexy, youthful high-class escort – to tempt her husband and likely confirm her suspicions. Naively thinking herself to be in control of the situation, Catherine develops a dangerous relationship with Chloe that soon threatens her home and her family.
Choosing the well-trodden path of “crazy lesbian threatens heteronormative familial unit”, Chloe swiftly spirals into implausible and unconvincing territory with wild abandon. Not nearly so sultry as Emmanuelle Béart (Nathalie…), it is Julianne Moore who carries this film; her performance consistently strong. Often too melodramatic for its own good, Chloe lacks the tension its source material so successfully achieved and as a result it leaves little more than disappointment in its wake. The remake then is a new take on the original and no doubt will do well amongst illiterate audiences despite its crisis of identity; in Nathalie… it is quite clear that we are to align ourselves with Catherine; voyeurs who learn they are not at all in control of what they see, but in Chloe the identification is split between the two female leads which creates an unnecessary distancing from the film and therefore a high level of viewer inaccessibility.
Chloe opens in Australian cinemas on Thursday October 14 through Roadshow.
Above all, the recent swathe of American remakes of films not in the English language (“foreign” is such a loaded term), open up debate surrounding the question of access in the first instance; a film’s ability to communicate and engage its audience. Weighing the two against one another (although crude, seems justifiable given this is what audiences quite frequently do when choosing which film to pay to see), Moretz is the favourable of the two Chloes and when faced with a vampire or Amanda Seyfried, one would be well advised to take a moment to pause, and then let the right one in.
Written by Tara Judah for Liminal Vision.