Canadian Armenian filmmaker Atom Egoyan began making low-budget indie films in the 1980s, and his first significant commercial success was with this dark, twisted drama set mostly at a Toronto strip club. As the name of the film suggests, the club is called “Exotica”, and all those who have watched an Egoyan film can probably assume that it is a somewhat twisted, depressing film of some dark poetics. All the characters here have gone through some terrible trauma, and of course the night strip club is a place that attracts a variety of slimy guys and freaks. Egoyan came up with the idea for “Exotica” intrigued by the somewhat ritualistic nature of these dances on the table and the rules that customers must not touch the dancer.
The most sought-after dancer in “Exotica” is the barely adult girl Christina (Mia Kirshner) who performs as a schoolgirl. Among the regular guests of “Exotica” is tax collector Francis Brown (Bruce Greenwood), a guy who does not fit into the standard clientele that salivates at girls, and he is always looking for Christina’s private performance. It will soon become clear to us that the Francis guy was devastated by grief and that he experienced trauma, and after a while we will find out that a few months earlier his daughter was abducted and killed and he was a suspect. Then his wife, whom he only later found out had cheated on him, was killed, all of which must have affected his psyche.
Although the whole film is shrouded in mystery, in the end everything falls into place, and it is interesting how the destinies of the characters from the film will be connected, and after a while we will also realize that some of them were connected in some way. Just like a good part of Egoyan’s films, “Exotica” exudes a strange atmosphere, the whole story is quite enigmatic, and the focus is on deeply lonely, desperate people who are just looking for a crumb of attention and understanding. Although the behavior of most of them is quite strange, at times almost creepy, they all seem to find someone similar to themselves. In addition to the two main characters, there are many other supporting characters who will also prove important for the whole story. There is both a jealous DJ and a nightclub host Eric (Elias Koteas) who will become jealous of Francis and also obsessed with Christina, as well as the bizarre owner of a pet store Thomas Pinto (Don McKellar) who will be overseen by Francis. Rating 7/10.
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