Office Christmas Party
Another reminder that allowing your cast to madly improvise instead of actually providing a coherent script with a scintilla of inherent logic often leads to…
Sex for money sometimes conceals great sadness. It can be sought to treat wounds it cannot heal. I believe that may happen less in actual prostitution than in the parody of prostitution offered in "gentleman's clubs." Whatever is going on is less about sex than psychological need, sometimes on both sides. Atom Egoyan's "Exotica" is a deep, painful film about those closed worlds of stage-managed lust.
It is also a tender film about a lonely and desperate man, and a woman who is kind to him. How desperate and how kind are only slowly revealed. In a technical sense, this is a "hyperlink movie," in which characters are revealed to be connected in ways they may not know about. But Egoyan, who also wrote the film, surprises us in how slowly he reveals the links and even more slowly reveals what the characters know about them. When the film ends, you sit regarding the screen, putting together what you have just learned and using it to think again about what went before.
The critic Bryant Frazer wrote that after the film played in the 1994 New York Film Festival, a woman asked Egoyan what had happened at the end. Egoyan was "visibly perturbed" by the question, he said, but finally responded. Frazer writes, "Here is what the last scene in the film meant, he explained, his four- or five-word declamation a stark and numbing negation of the gentle, almost languid spirit of the film, which invites the audience to its own discovery. The 'what happened' is simple enough to explain, but you can't really understand it unless you're fully caught up in the cinema when it unfolds in front of you."
Frazer is right: There is no mystery at the end, except the mysteries of human nature that Egoyan evokes. What you think about those will define the film's importance to you. For me, they make it a cry of sympathy for people suffering from loss and guilt, and also an affirmation about how others are wiling to understand them. A film can only get so far by simply stating its message; if the message is that easily defined, why bother with the film? "Exotica" does what many good films do and implies its troubled feelings. Nothing is solved at the end, except that we have learned to understand the characters.