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Overall Rating
3.5

Awesome: 9.38%
Worth A Look53.13%
Average: 25%
Pretty Bad: 3.13%
Total Crap: 9.38%

3 reviews, 14 user ratings


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Business of Strangers, The
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by Todd LaPlace

"Claustrophobic character study at its best."
4 stars

You’ve written your first feature, a fiery three-person character study that centers around two different strong women and the man caught in the middle. You’ve also managed to be named director for your first full-length feature. How do you ensure you’re going to get a fantastic finished product? Hiring two of the best, if not most underappreciated, actresses to take the lead roles is a good start.

It’s noteworthy that Patrick Stettner’s directorial debut “The Business of Strangers” debuted the same year as Richard Linklater’s “Tape.” Both can essentially be boiled down to a series of power plays between a pair of protagonists, usually with a third acting as the others’ unwilling victim, both literally and verbally. In “Tape,” it was Robert Sean Leonard vs. Ethan Hawke, with Uma Thurman playing the victim.

“The Business of Strangers,” however, flips the genders by making the battle between high-powered businesswoman Julie (Stockard Channing) and her brazen A/V assistant Paula (Julia Stiles). While on the road at another business presentation, Julie receives word the boss is flying in to meet her for dinner. She fears the worst and starts prepping to pick up the pieces of her shattered work life, even calling in professional headhunter Nick (Frederick Weller) to meet her with new job prospects. The worrying all turns out to be in vain, though, as Julie is actually named the new CEO of her software company. Stuck alone in a strange city, she retreats to a hotel bar and calls her secretary, seemingly the only person in her life she can share the good news with. Also having a drink is Paula, trying to kill time after weather cancelled her flight and stranded her in the same bar. Having been 45 minutes late for the presentation, Paula was causally fired by an uncaring Julie (who was preoccupied with not being unemployed). Seeking solace and a familiar face, the pair toss back expensive drinks and start bonding in the way only alcohol can make you bond.

Without the talents of Channing and Stiles, the character study might have progressed into stale territory, as the film starts sounding like the rest of the quick-witted, dialogue-heavy movies prominent in the ’90s. The pair, though, pulls off the material beautifully, especially during the hotel portion during which the pair “bond” over drinks, treadmill runs, strap-on black dildos and even more drinks. Having once again retreated to the hotel bar, Julie is joined by Nick, having also been rejected by the airport. The picture takes a sad twist at this point and the corporate politics take a backseat in exchange for a much darker focus (a topic shared with “Tape”). The power struggles that began as playful also take that turn as the women begin sizing each other up to see which controls the evening’s alcohol-soaked ending. Will it be the sensible veteran from humble beginnings that sacrificed a life for job prosperity? Or is the tattooed young rebel that writes non-fiction short stories because she likes “the sloppiness of real life” able to con her opponent into sacrificing the upper hand?

Stettner’s screenplay does get a little muddled during that second half, as the focus occasionally slips too far into the Nick subplot instead of using it to further the battle between the women, and the final twist is one of the most transparent in recent memory. Still, such criticism should be taken as only slightly problematic, as the resolution doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. The arc both characters have taken by the time each reach the airport in the morning has reached its end, offering enough insight into the characters’ respective lives to make the film more than worth the price of admission.

This is one of those films that was destined to be a critical darling, but that would lack any commercial appeal. When some of the year’s biggest films include “Rush Hour 2,” “Pearl Harbor” and “The Fast and the Furious,” there is only so much one small little indie film can do to carve out its own niche in the cinematic world.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=4841&reviewer=401
originally posted: 07/04/05 12:59:49
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User Comments

4/20/10 PAUL SHORTT ICY BUT WATCHABLE DRAMA WITH SOME GOOD PERFORMANCES 3 stars
9/26/04 Tor Honolulu I love Freddy but boy oh boy does he owe me for watching this garbage 2 stars
4/13/03 Jack Sommersby Well-acted and involving. It's slight but focused. 4 stars
8/27/02 ownerofdajoint thebusinessofvictimizedwomen 4 stars
8/13/02 Monday Morning A total waste of time. 1 stars
7/20/02 ??? good 5 stars
3/02/02 Unagiboy Channing & Stiles give great performances. 4 stars
2/06/02 michael james a long drawn out painfull 2 hours 1 stars
2/06/02 Otis Buckshot This is a long, slow moving, dull,prictable, story of no depth. 1 stars
1/24/02 Paco Great performances, last 1/3 was a little weak 4 stars
12/14/01 Raymond Ellis Provocative and creepy 3 stars
12/09/01 Mario Noble Quite Good. A little stilted at times. But memorable peformances. Stays with you.4.5 stars 5 stars
11/24/01 Martha Hartley More in common with "Eyes Wide Shut" than "In the Company of Men". 4 stars
10/24/01 Gary Shipes Excellent. Superb performances from Stiles, Weller and Channing. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  07-Dec-2001 (R)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  23-May-2002




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