...It's authentic 90s aesthetic
THE EXCHANGE (2021)
The craziest thing about watching Canadian, coming-of-age comedy, The Exchange, is that a movie set in the 90s (the decade in which I was born), looks like and has the feel of the coming-of-age movies I watched growing up that are set in the 70s and 80s! I’m not that old, surely?
However, the replication of these classic coming-of-age movies in The Exchange is a great positive for the film itself. It’s very funny, filled with entertaining characters and even though the plot itself doesn’t add anything new to the formula, there’s still a lot of heart that carries this comedy through to the end!
Taking the helm of director for this movie is Borat co-writer Dan Mazer. With an extensive background in comedy, Mazer is undoubtedly a competent handler of both visual comedy and constructing great comedic timing on screen. There are great back and forth moments between a variety of characters, and Mazer manages to capture the excessive awkwardness of a coming-of-age tale with ease. The pacing and editing is sharp and crisp, clocking in at just over 90 minutes, each scene feels important to the characters and plot with very little drag creating disinterest.
On top of the comedic element of The Exchange, it genuinely captures the aura of a 90s film through great set designs and cinematography.
The Exchange at its core is the classic high-school outsider tale. We follow Tim (Ed Oxenbould), the social outcast of a small Canadian town with no friends or romantic prospects on the horizon. Tim engulfs himself in culture outside his Candian roots, mostly obsessed with all things French-art related. So, when the opportunity arises to house a French foriegn exchange student, Tim is elated… until the arrival of Stephane (Avan Jogia), a sex-addicted, breakdancing, chain-smoking teen who doesn’t live up to Tim’s high-society cultural standard of France.
What I enjoyed about The Exchange, is that even in all its familiarity when it comes to the story it tells, it flips certain aspects upside down to create interest in the movie. Initially, I thought the movie was going to make Stephane an unbearable character in order to make the audience feel more sympathy for Tim. However, immediately as we are introduced to Stephane, as much of a culture shock as he is for Tim, he’s incredibly friendly towards him and wants to make a genuine friendship! It’s little elements like this that have changed the formula of the coming-of-age tale enough to make The Exchange an enjoyable story to watch.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Although it’s not confirmed in any title cards or credits, the character of Tim shares the name of screenwriter Tim Long, which alludes to the fact this is an autobiographical tale! And with the variety of unique characters in The Exchange, it definitely seems that a lot of them are inspired by real life people. Oxenbould turns in a great performance as the slight neurotic, yet oddly charming Tim and Jogia provides immense comedic moments as the brash Stephane. Their chemistry together is great too! Even though their characters are complete opposites to each other, on screen both actors work very well together!
One of the films highlight characters though is Justin Hartley as the uncomfortably cocksure gym teacher/local law enforcement officer of this small town, Mr. Rothbauer. He is the epitome of the stereotypical gym teacher who thinks he’s the top guy, and every awkward encounter, joke or advance he makes on anyone is only as good as the delivery of these cringe-fest lines from Hartley himself.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
A relatively small budget feature, The Exchange does well with the cards it was dealt. The set designs and costuming really embrace and accentuate the 90s vibe, but there is nothing overly outstanding about how this movie is presented. That’s not to take anything away from the effort put into this film, but as a movie that relies mostly on characters and story, over it’s visuals, there is a little bit left to behold when it comes to large scale cinematic quality.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
There’s plenty of great 90s tracks throughout this movie that had my head bopping each time they came on. The soundtrack utilises nostalgia very well and is a welcomed addition to the movie as a whole. The cinematic score co-composed by Christoph Baushinger and Michael Smith is not as prevalent as the soundtrack itself, but definitely adds a great emotionality to the dramatic scenes that arrive in the film's third act.
While The Exchange doesn’t reinvent the coming-of-age comedy, it’s authentic 90s aesthetic, lively characters and genuinely laugh out loud jokes make for a very entertaining 90 minutes. Each actor really embraces their character and draws the audience in for a nostalgia trip that will leave a smile on your face!