Chlorine: A Tiresome Dramatic Comedy Made With Cliches

Chlorine begins, perhaps a bit pompously, with a quote from William S. Burroughs — though the only affinity the film shares with the author of Naked Lunch is a haphazard approach to structure.

While the effect was probably not deliberate, Jay Alaimo’s tiresome dramatic comedy often seems as if it were assembled using the cut-up technique favored by Burroughs and his beat contemporaries, in which clichés are thrown together and arbitrarily rearranged.

The premise alone suggests the extent of the screenplay’s unoriginality: Roger Lent (Vincent D’Onofrio), an ineffectual banker long resigned to middle-class complacency, finds himself embroiled in an investment scam orchestrated by an unscrupulous colleague, who in fact conspires to fleece the community.

Well, the ubiquity of greed may be a timeless theme, but hasn’t the novelty of the Ponzi scheme been exhausted? Alaimo seems to have an unusually high tolerance for shopworn ideas, and Chlorine boasts no shortage of them: Roger’s frumpy teenage daughter endures her first period in the style of an after-school special; his wife aspires to fit in with high society and makes a desperate show of embellishing her status; and his fashionably angst-ridden son, channeling Paul Dano in Little Miss Sunshine, reads Sun Tzu as he cultivates a budding anarchism. They exhibit not a glimmer of imagination or original thought among them.

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