The Business Of Strangers

The Business Of Strangers


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Essentially a two-hander, writer/director Patrick Stettner's debut is more of a stage play than a movie. The performances of Stockard Channing, as a business executive, and Julia Stiles, as a self-possessed trainee, are strong enough to give credence to an unexpected liaison.

Julie (Channing) is furious with Paula (Stiles), her new technical assistant, for turning up late for a presentation. She fires her on the spot and then thinks better of it when they meet again at the hotel bar, having missed the flight back.

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The film covers 24 hours, during which they eat, drink and play verbal power games. Paula's confidence is based on inexperience, a privileged background and the arrogance of youth. Julie's success is based on driving ambition, a deprived childhood and hard graft.

Paula lies for the fun of it and Julie is a mistress of the charm offensive. Paula mocks Julie's lifestyle for being emotionally dysfunctional and Julie undermines Paula's attitude for its idealistic simplicity. Things are never as easy as they seem. Even the truth can be twisted out of shape.

When Nick (Frederick Weller) joins them for a nightcap, things turn nasty. He's a headhunter and associate of Julie's, but Paula recognises him as the sleazeball who raped her friend at college.

As a workshop exercise, this has much to recommend it, but as a fully-fledged film it feels manipulative and unconvincing.

Reviewed on: 02 May 2002
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Stockard Channing and Julia Stiles verbally spar in a clever talkie about the art of manipulation
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Director: Patrick Stettner

Writer: Patrick Stettner

Starring: Stockard Channing, Julia Stiles, Fred Weller, Mary Testa, Jack Hallett, Marcus Giamatti, Buddy Fitzpatrick, Salem Ludwig, Shelagh Ratner, Tony Devon

Year: 2001

Runtime: 84 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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