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Exotica (1994)

by on 2011/07/12

“It’s not a question of liking it or not. It’s just something that happens.”

* * *

Welcome to Exotica, a film not about the musical trend, but a Toronto strip club, in and around which most of its characters exist.

Zoe (Arsinee Khanjian of The Sweet Hereafter) owns the titular club she inherited from her mother. She seems to be in love with one of her own employees, but is pregnant by another.

Eric (Elias Koteas of Some Kind of Wonderful) — disc jockey, announcer, and father of Zoe’s child — is the broken-hearted, very jealous ex-boyfriend of one of the dancers.

Christine (Mia Kirshner of The L Word) is the club’s “school girl” dancer, ex-girlfriend of Eric, and one-time music student.

Francis Brown (Bruce Greenwood of 2009’s Star Trek) is a former music teacher, government auditor, and grieving father and widower.

Tracey Brown (Sarah Polley of Splice) is Francis’ niece, sitter, and sounding board.

Harold Brown (Victor Garber of Alias) is Tracey’s father, confined to a wheelchair and nervous about his brother, Francis, discovering sins past.

Thomas Pinto (Don McKellar of Last Night) is the wild card of the cast. A gay pet shop owner with a penchant for ballet, he’s deep in trouble for smuggling. He is offered the chance to escape his fate if he enters and unravels their web.

Hacker Renders is a disappointed reviewer who expected more exciting developments. The experience began well enough and remained more compelling than boring, but it did stretch out and slow down by the end.

The whole felt like a litmus test, a Rorschach, or tabula rasa. All of the above or none at all, it’s a canvas for ideas and expectations. My projections, based on our typical fare, were considerably more interesting than the engine of pathos buried at its heart.

It’s not exactly minimalism, with its sprawling character set, however it’s surprisingly simple and straightforward. It is what it is, as they say. While nothing’s as involving as the highs and lows of life, its numb indifferent tone just left me cold.

I found interpretation to be its greatest strength but having learned — and been disappointed by — its secrets, I’ve no reason to return, reconsider, or rediscover.

No doubt, Exotica’s very well made, complex yet elegant, realistic and fantastic, but it didn’t get through to me. It didn’t affect, edify, educate, or entertain me, though I wish I could say that it had.

* * *

Rated 18A for nudity

104 minutes

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