Atom Egoyan, Canada's most popular film director, examines the realm of exotica and fantasy in his new film Exotica. The film, which takes place in and is named for the upscale strip joint called Exotica, could have been as fittingly titled "Erotica." The story revolves around the six main characters: Francis, the central character who frequents the club in an effort to escape from his enormous losses; Christine, his favorite dancer with whom he shares a strange though mutually rewarding relationship; Eric, Christine's jealous ex who serves as M.C. of the club; Zoe, the club's pregnant owner who has contracted with Eric to father her baby; Thomas, a pet-shop owner whose mild mannered surface belies many secrets; and Tracey, the niece of Francis who wisely refuses to aid in her uncle's retreat from reality.
The lives of the six characters are expertly intertwined and we are made only gradually aware of the nature of the connections. The plot twists and turns and the viewer cannot help but make inaccurate assumptions. At the onset, I found no sympathetic character. As the story unfolded, however, such a character emerged with perfect clarity.
I was disappointed with the lack of consistency in the characters' actions after reflecting on, in retrospect, each of the characters' chronological actions. Much of the behavior made little sense when I put the whole story together.
At any rate, I came away from the film with a clearer understanding of the lengths that people will go to, to dull their pain or to, ideally, forget the painful reality of their lives. Egoyan has succeeded in creating a thought provoking film. Bruce Greenwood delivers an excellent performance as the tortured Francis and the presence of the young Tracey (Sarah Polley) added a much-needed innocent, sane perspective to the story.