The Exotica is a strip club on the outskirts of Toronto, where a collection of oddball clientele assemble nightly to see their favourite girls.
Atom Egoyan has amassed a significant body of work, turning out distinctive movies in rapid succession (The Adjuster, Calendar) obsessively exploring the themes of voyeurism and alienation, unfashionably finding redemption in pornography.
Exotica is Egoyan's largest to date, letting us get to know a cross-section of oddballs who cluster round a single location, the eponymous strip club - a combination of the Raymond Revue Bar and Rick's Cafe from Casablanca - and a singly suppressed incident in the murder of a child important to all the characters.
Information is doled out sparingly, so you only gradually find out who everyone is, what their relationships are, and how they fit together. Accountant Francis (Greenwood) comes every night to the Exotica and hires Christina (Kirshner) to dance privately for him, getting some strange half-sexual, half-innocent thrill from her silky moves. Revolving around Francis and Christina are Thomas (Don McKellar) and Eric (Koteas). Thomas is a gay pet-shop proprietor who has a lucrative sideline in smuggling exotic birds, Eric a long-haired MC at the club who was once involved with Christina, both in search of a corpse and a love affair.
Though self-defined as an arthouse filmmaker by the way his oblique plots require close attention and his peculiar characters resist easy sympathy, Egoyan's concerns are not all that far removed from those of top shelf videos: exploring voyeurism means exposing pretty naked women, and Canadian cutie Kirshner spends a great deal of time writhing out of her school uniform.
Exotica reaches for the mysterious, subtle and provocative with sparing but tangible success, and is flashy in the same way earlier Egoyan films were buttoned down.