In the upscale Toronto strip club Exotica, dancer Christina is visited nightly by the obsessive Francis, a depressed tax auditor. Her ex-boyfriend, the club’s MC, Eric, still jealously pines for her even as he introduces her onstage, but Eric is having his own relationship problems with the club’s owner, Zoe. Meanwhile Thomas, a mysterious pet-shop owner, is about to become unexpectedly involved in their lives. Gradually, connections between the traumatic pasts of these characters are revealed.
Canadian film maker Atom Egoyan’s mature, discomforting and haunting meditative masterpiece (told with non-linear reverse chronology and flashbacks), his first art-house success in the US, was about obsession, alienation, jealousy and voyeurism. It was very different than the erotic (or exotic) thriller it was marketed as. It was more of a psychological drama with multiple storylines (two love triangles) and connections between characters that were slowly revealed.
It specifically examined the painful relationship-bond established between two individuals in a club called Exotica:
Francis Brown (Bruce Greenwood), a Toronto strip club regular, and a lonely government revenue auditor
Christina or “Chrissy” (Mia Kirshner), a sultry brunette table/lap dancer (often introduced: “What is it that gives a schoolgirl her special innocence?”)
She was outfitted as a teenaged school girl (with white shirt, tartan-plaid skirt, and knee socks) and often talked or privately danced for $5 for Francis to the tune of Leonard Cohen’s “Everyone Knows.” His daughter had been murdered and he was also grieving the traffic accident death of his unfaithful wife – a possible suicide. His visits to the club to see Christina, his former babysitter, helped him ‘resurrect’ his daughter in his mind and ease his paternal pain. At the same time, Christina was having a lesbian affair with Zoe.
[Note: Francis’ current babysitter Tracey Brown (Sarah Polley), (although unnecessary – “There’s no baby to sit”), was the daughter of his wheel-chaired brother Harold (Victor Garber) – who was having an affair with Francis’ wife before Francis’ daughter was tragically murdered and his wife died in a car accident. Eric and Christina were the two in the search party who discovered Francis’ daughter’s discarded corpse.]
Other associated relationships included:
Eric (Elias Koteas) – the long, dark-haired club DJ, Christina’s jealous and possessive ex-boyfriend
Zoe (Arsinee Khanjian) – the club’s pregnant owner who had been impregnated by Eric through a contractual arrangement
Thomas (Don McKellar) – a gay, meek, secretive, and bespectacled exotic pet-shop owner who would ritualistically pick up male partners at the opera
Francis uncovered the fact of Thomas’ criminal behavior (suspected illegal smuggling rare bird eggs). At the same time, Eric persuaded Francis to touch Christina (strictly forbidden by the club’s policies), and Eric barred him from the club. Francis made a blackmailing deal with Thomas – he would overlook Thomas’ smuggling if he visited Exotica to speak to Christina and assisted him in killing Eric. However, Francis and Eric ended up embracing, in empathy toward each other’s circumstances, when all the interconnected relationships were fully revealed.
Director: Atom Egoyan