In this cryptic, moody film, seemingly unrelated tales ultimately dovetail to reveal the shared past of a tortured government tax auditor (Bruce Greenwood), a gay pet-shop proprietor (Don McKellar), a sultry young stripper (Mia Kischner) and her co-workers. The characters’ focal point is a kitsch Toronto strip joint called Exotica, where the club’s dancer’s strut their stuff to satisfy the sale clientele’s voyeuristic and emotional needs.
Exotica is a movie labyrinth, winding seductively into the darkest secrets of a group of people who should have no connection with one another, but do. At the beginning, the film seems to be about randomly selected strangers. By the end, it is revealed that these people are so tightly wound up together that if you took one away, their world would collapse. […] We begin with desperation and need, and move to satisfaction and fulfillment, and at the same time Egoyan astonishingly finds a way to add melodrama, blackmail and an ingenious deception. The movie is a series of interlocking surprises and delights and, at the end, it is heartbreaking as well. It’s quite a performance, announcing Egoyan’s arrival in the first rank of filmmakers. –Roger Ebert