The night club Exotica is the back drop for a number of relationships crashing. Club regular Francis has little left to live for after having lost his wife and daughter. But Christina is the apple of his eye, the young dancer that he requests every time he comes in, while the DJ of the club witnesses it every night - and he happens to be her ex-boyfriend. Thomas runs a pet shop and has smuggled some questionable eggs, and Francis is ready to help him if he will investigate why Francis was thrown out of the club.
My first venture into an Atom Egoyan flick was the rather recent "Where the Truth Lies", which I saw a couple of years back now. It's not a movie that amazed me enough for me to go further into his filmography, and I watched it mostly for Kevin Bacon, but it still remains a title that has stood out. It brought up a lot of ugly things and was generally different experience, which is definitely up my alley. But just a short while back I sought out his "The Sweet Hereafter". It was a really fantastic look at a town in sorrow, so when people frequently mentioned "Exotica" in connection to it I had to see it.
"Exotica" digs into different kinds of sorrows, what people do to cover it and survive it, and how people around react to it. My main interest of the flick is Francis, who lost his daughter and after that his wife. He's now alone, and the only shine in his life is the young girl at the night club Exotica. Her name is Christina, and she's the ex-girlfriend of the club's DJ - a guy who observes in jealousy as Francis gets her for several hours every night. Francis is not in love with Christina, but they have built a need for each other. It's an exchange of favors, you could say, but on a mental level. When Francis one day is manipulated to touch Christina, he's thrown out of the club and not allowed in ever again. Another important character in the movie is Thomas. He is the owner of a pet shop, and he recently smuggled in eggs into the country and is close to getting in trouble for it. His story will eventually connect to Exotica when he needs Francis' help to get out of trouble. In return, Francis wants him to go into Exotica and investigate why he was thrown out.
The tone of the movie reminds me of "The Sweet Hereafter", but to be honest I found this one to be more fascinating. "The Sweet Hereafter" stands out as a very somber, real and straight forward story about sorrow, but I am more fascinated by how "Exotica" drives its characters into weird places out of sorrow. "The Sweet Hereafter" most likely has one of the saddest plots I have seen, but the movie itself handles it so...nicely, I guess, that a few moments in "Exotica" were more powerful. This movie does get into some sad places, that's for sure, but those scenes are usually those were the least words are exchanged. It's really all about how it uses the sorrow in atmosphere more than actions.
Really well shot overall, I loved the scenes in the night club. Egoyan has a great director's eye and the movie proves it over and over again. It's superbly acted by everybody and each character stands out. It's important to note that it doesn't force you to like them, though. Sorrow is the key here and it uses it uniquely. I can definitely sense a Egoyan-style that was present in the other movies I saw by him too, and that often marks a good director. Not always, but usually, and in this case it does.
"Exotica" is highly recommended if you want a sad drama that still isn't a tear-jerker. It's not sensational, it's not working specifically for you to cry, but the underlying tone is fantastically gloomy. I wouldn't know who'd possibly dislike a movie like this, but I am sure there are people for that out there as well.