Exotica (1995) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Scoop's comments in white:

This movie made some of the top 10 lists in 1995, including those of such respected critics as James Berardinelli and Roger Ebert. It is indeed an excellent movie, but viewed in retrospect, compared to Egoyan's follow-up, the brilliant "The Sweet Hereafter", which treats some of the same themes with the same actors, "Exotica" seems to be only prefiguring what might yet come from the director. Is Exotica the greatest film that nobody has ever heard of? It grossed a mere five million dollars at the box office in 1994, and is now all but forgotten. It seems strange that even a terrific movie like Exotica can find itself in the shadows, but it is not alone in that regard among Egoyan's films. The Sweet Hereafter was such an unqualified success that Egoyan's more recent films, although strong efforts, seem like a let-down because we know the upside of his capabilities.

I very much like the circular way Egoyan tells his stories, in which characters seem to know other mysterious things about other characters, but we don't know who knows what, and we find out only when the other characters do. This technique conveys a real sense of mystery, and it seems to be especially effective for treating the deep sense of loss felt by so many of the characters in his movies. What can I tell you? Atom Egoyan is brilliant at mood and atmosphere. He is the greatest film auteur in Canada, and perhaps he is already the greatest writer-director in the world, although he's still a very young man (he just turned 40). It will be interesting to watch his progress. His movies crossed over from arthouse to mainstream when he stopped thinking so much and started to lead with his heart, resulting in two emotional and genuine films, Exotica and The Sweet Hereafter. His films since the Sweet Hereafter have shown somewhat of a regression to the over-intellectualized, post-Modernist Egoyan of his earlier works. Will he learn to expand his talent and make his movies ever more human and sweeping, like a more intellectual version of Spielberg, or will he pigeonhole himself into a narrowly pretentious artistic niche like Tarkovsky or Peter Greenaway?

Either way, he's going to give us some great moments in the next few years, and I eagerly await his future efforts.


Mia Krishner's chest is exposed when she does a striptease in a Toronto gentleman's club.

Tuna's comments in yellow:

Exotica (1994) is an Atom Egoyan film, which means you can make some assumptions about it knowing nothing else. The cast will include his wife, Arsinée Khanjian. The story will be revealed in layers, within a non-linear time frame. A major theme will be how people deal with the loss of a loved one.

Exotica is a strip club, and many of the characters have that location in common. Arsinée Khanjian is the owner, Mia Kirshner is a star performer, Bruce Greenwood is her biggest customer. We eventually learn that Greenwood's daughter was murdered. There is more, but in case you haven't seen this film, I will leave it to you to discover. This was Egoyan's best film to date at the time it was made, and he followed it with an absolute masterpiece, The Sweet Hereafter. In Exotica, I always found myself wanting to get on with the story, whereas The Sweet Hereafter, which used the same tools of non-linear time and unraveling layer after layer, held my interest too well to want to jump ahead.

It is not a cliffhanger, but it uses the techniques of a mystery film to create a masterfully crafted character study of a group of seemingly unrelated characters who end up being so interrelated that loss of one would make them all collapse. 

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus four stars. James Berardinelli 4/4, Roger Ebert 4/4.

  • It won eight Genies in 12 nominations.

The People Vote ...

  • It grossed $5 million.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, Tuna says, "The proper score is B-. This is a character driven drama, but will appeal to many who don't usually enjoy them due to its interesting narrative style." Scoop says: "as much as I like this film and would love to score it higher, it seems to me that it is a C+, the kind of film which is recognized by a small group of people as a masterpiece as well as a personal favorite, but which is too gloomy and slow for mainstream viewers. The minimal box office seems to support my contention."

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