Exotica (1994)

Review

Exotica is a new dramatic thriller from Canadian director Atom Egoyan, who brings us this fascinating glimpse into the life of Francis Brown (Bruce Greenwood), a Canadian tax auditor whose life intertwines with a his brother and niece, an exotic animal smuggler, and, most importantly, the denizens of a strip joint called Exotica.

The action in Exotica jumps from one character to another, from location to location, and back into Brown’s past occasionally, teasing the viewer with bits of information about how these people’s lives are eventually going to gel into a cohesive story. As the story progresses, there are plenty of blanks left for the viewer to fill in as the action springs around. The seamless editing makes this seem natural, albeit a bit overdone at times, but eventually it all comes together to make perfect sense in the end.

Thematically, Exotica is a dense study of human nature, obsession, and the difficulties of reconciling our perceptions with reality. Egoyan’s careful braiding of plotlines and characters makes this reconciliation all the more difficult, but that’s the point. In the end, the film gives us about five different viewpoints on a single situation, an admirable effort that not many filmmakers could pull off.

Exotica is a beautiful sensory feast, studded with lush cinematography and haunted by an outstanding score. The sets are excellent as well, particularly the seductive Exotica club itself. The performances are dead-on, especially Greenwood’s slightly twisted accountant and Mia Kirshner as Christina, the stripper with whom Francis is obsessed. The convoluted plot line and rather mature subject matter may make the film too esoteric for some, but you won’t be able to get Exotica out of your mind for days.