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BUSINESS OF STRANGERS, THE

SYNOPSIS:
Business executive Julie Styron (Stockard Channing) is under a lot of pressure, and when she is delayed in an airport hotel, she finds company in Paula (Julia Styles), her temp assistant with whom she had an earlier run-in. The brittle relationship takes a few turns as the women get to know each other during the course of the night. When Nick (Frederick Weller), the employment agent Julie hoped would find her a new job joins them, the stakes are raised. Paula recognises him as the man who raped her girlfriend four years earlier, and sodden with alcohol, the women decide to take revenge, even while they play a psychological power struggle between each othe
r.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Writer/director Patrick Stettner says he was drawn to the stories of older women executives while working as a temp in New York offices. What’s odd about that as a director’s statement is that the film plays to a different rhythm: it’s not so much the older executive female that seems the focus of the film, but the psychology of women. My take on this is that Stettner began to write about his chosen subject but found the characters and their setting took him somewhere else. And somewhere more complex than he had envisaged. The film is not as obviously confronting as The Company of Men, with which it has been compared as if it were the reverse view, but it still touches fascinating and dangerous ground. Shot in a simple but effective cinematic style, the film manages to maintain interest and tension for most of its short running time. The twist at the end is what takes the film out of Stettner’s claimed preserve into psychological no man’s land. Whether you read it as a misanthropic essay or a psychological thriller will depend on your personal viewpoint. But it will keep you guessing.

Review by Louise Keller:
An edgy drama about manipulation and control, The Business of Strangers is a fascinating film, filled with provocative ideas about female revenge. Beginning and ending at a sterile airport with its stark corridors, rooms and windows, it could be anywhere, and that’s where we first meet Julie, an ambitious executive tired of the corporate ladder. She wears a smart suit, stiletto heels and mobile phone, looking every inch the female corporate success story. Our first impressions of Paula are somewhat different: a young girl who aspires but has not achieved much. Riveting performances from Stockard Channing and Julia Stiles as the two women who on the surface appear very different, but quickly find a commonality. Channing creates a marvellously complex woman, who comes to the realisation that her job is the entirety of her life, while Stiles is extraordinary as the seemingly innocent young girl who hides many secrets. ‘I like the sloppiness of real life’ says Paula, while Julie observes that ‘everyone eats shit… it’s a matter of degree.’ The use of music is minimal throughout, especially in the first half, when dialogue plays the leading role. When used, it is slow, almost taunting and certainly used to good effect. Patrick Stettner’s debut film is confronting and challenging. It’s curious that a film about female revenge is written by a man not a woman, and the observations made are disturbing and thought provoking. It may not quite be the role reversal equivalent of Neal LaBute’s shocking In the Company of Men, but The Business of Strangers twists and manipulates our minds with enough tenacity and grit to keep you mesmerised. We are never sure when things are leading, and it’s not until the very last scene that all the loose ends are matched. A wonderfully stimulating film for a lengthy dinner conversation.



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

BUSINESS OF STRANGERS, THE (M)
(US)

CAST: Stockard Channing, Julia Stiles, Fred Weller, Mary Testa

PRODUCER: Robert H. Nathan, Susan A. Stover

DIRECTOR: Patrick Stettner

SCRIPT: Patrick Stettner

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Teodoro Maniaci

EDITOR: Keiko Deguchi

MUSIC: Alex Lasarenko

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Dina Goldman

RUNNING TIME: 84 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Beyond Films

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 23, 2002 (Sydney/Melbourne)

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR:

VIDEO RELEASE: Feb tba, 2003







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