The 10 Commandments of Chloe

| April 1, 2013

Chloe is a struggling musician who has just moved to Nashville, Tennessee to roll the dice and try to make it as a professional singer/songwriter.  In the midst of trying to get any venue in Nashville to hear her out and give her a shot, she meets Brandon (Jason Bukey), another musician just trying to get by, and the two cautiously enter into a romantic relationship.

Naama Kates, who plays Chloe and co-wrote the screenplay along with director Princeton Holt, offers a very realistic performance, and a very realistic dynamic with the other characters.  Much of what’s on screen actually feels like it was improvised, with the exception of some of the bigger moments like when Chloe is delivering a monologue to Brandon about what her music means to her.

Actually, I would argue that parts of this border on being too realistic.  There are several scenes of Chloe hanging out with Brandon and his friends, and we see these characters interact in this seemingly improvised manner, but what they say rarely pushes the plot forward.  I had a professor in college who railed against having banter in our scripts because while banter can be cute and funny, it doesn’t serve the overall story of the piece.  I never understood the problem with having banter in a play or movie, because it’s fun and can easily create a great rhythm to the script.  After watching 10 Commandments of Chloe, I better understand what he meant.  It’s important to have a balance between the banter and the more character-driven moments in the script.  This film is about 93% banter.  Characters talk and try to be cute and natural, but we lose sight of the story that should be intriguing us through the film.

So, the best scenes in the film in my opinion are 1) a scene where Chloe is talking to a guitar player in a night club about other things she can try to get her music heard, 2) The final scene between Chloe and a night club owner and the following performance Chloe gives later that night, and 3) the argument scene between Chloe and Brandon.  However, I have to say that this argument scene does much more to develop the Chloe character than the Brandon character.  He comes across a whiney and juvenile.  He passive aggressively digs at Chloe for being distant sometimes, and he is unchanged over the course of the scene and the movie overall.

There is an inconsistency to the commandments that flash up on the screen throughout the film.  Some will be basic and simple like “Be Fearless,” while others are more complicated quotes from specific people.  I’m not sure how I feel about this aspect of the movie.  First, it gives the film a structure, but at the same time I feel like each commandment could have more to do with the scenes that follow.  Second, the shifting between the specific and the general as we move from commandment to commandment does contribute to the film’s realism; it helps make Chloe feel like a real girl who has decided to live her life by a set of principles and along the way she’s incorporated these various philosophies from her own mind and others’.  I’m on the fence about its effectiveness, but there are definitely times during the film where I convince myself to embrace it and appreciate it.

Another structural choice I enjoy is the fact that we don’t hear Chloe’s music until the end.  With the story revolving around her inability to get work, it’s nice that we get our first exposure to her music once she gets her first little break playing at a small club.  It has to be said though that I am much more interested in what happens next.  Where Chloe’s life goes from the moment the film ends.  These final moments of the film do more to develop the character and push the plot forward effectively than the entire first hour.  Finally, I have to say that the song Chloe sings at the end is fantastic.  I really enjoyed it and would have liked to see more of her musical presence in the film, even if it means sacrificing the metaphor of her not performing until she’s gotten a break.

About the Author:

Joe Sanders Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.

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