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IFC Films
Official Site
Director: Patrick Stettner
Producers: Robert H. Nathan, Susan A. Stover
Written by: Patrick Stettner
Cast: Stockard Channing, Julia Stiles, Fred Weller

Rating: out of 5

For first-time director Patrick Stettner, THE BUSINESS OF STRANGERS seems more like a personal encounter between foils.

Sometimes in films there is a wrangle between plot and character development in which one is given more attention and maturation, and then there are films where one element is more important than the other. In THE BUSINESS OF STRANGERS, the two female characters (played by the seasoned Stockard Channing and rising star Julia Stiles) are of paramount importance on this project. The situation they wind up in is only a background for their character development.

Julie Styron (Channing), a hardened businesswoman worried about being ousted from the job she so painstakingly climbed to obtain, delivers a sales pitch for her employer, an unnamed corporation. When audiovisual technician Paula Murphy (Stiles) shows up at the close of the meeting, Julie fires her on the spot. Later that day Julie receives a phone call that brings unexpected news: She has been promoted to CEO. Instead of sighing with relief or celebrating, Julie takes the news with reservation and uncertainty. That night Julie finds Paula in the bar, realizes she had been harsh, and offers Paula her job back. This scene begins a night of deception and realization for both women.

The movie examines the underexplored realm of women in business. Julie, a single woman whose best friend is her secretary, has sacrificed many things in pursuit of her career. Instead of being happy about her career, Julie is regretful.

Another key subject in the film is the issue of trust between strangers. Should you trust new acquaintances implicitly because a common bond is shared? Or should you keep them at armís length, casting a skeptical eye on all strangersí motives? Julie and Paula develop a bond quickly, and the issue of trust comes into play when Paula initiates a plan and asks for Julieís help.

The plot is entertaining and edgy, but what sells this movie is two words: Stockard Channing. Channing has come a long way from Rydell High School. With each line she delivers, her facial expressions tell ten times more. An intelligent character study, THE BUSINESS OF STRANGERS creates a tense situation for Stockard and Stiles that gradually illuminates their true natures.

óJennifer Prestigiacomo

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