The Business Of Strangers

"OK"

The Business Of Strangers Review


Stockard Channing submerges herself in layers of psychological debris as an aging, pinched corporate crocodile in "The Business of Strangers," a unsettling, canny film of Machiavellian manipulation, mind games and sexual conjecture.

Going stir crazy in an posh hotel at the end of an important business trip that went awry, her fatigued and barren, Valium-fueled life of raw ambition has been flashing before her eyes when she goes to the lobby bar and comes face-to-face with an insolent young assistant (Julia Stiles) she'd fired in a snit that afternoon.

A retrospective apology lead to several rounds of drinks and a mutual recognition of their similar brash chutzpah and cold calculation of life -- and that leads to trust, which is a very dangerous emotion between people who are cold and calculating.

Outwardly cocky, inwardly unstable and a perverted student of human behavior, Stiles (in a strong, dark, cryptic performance that keeps pace with Channing) begins impulsively toying with her former boss, pushing the executive's limits until she pushes back in a game of psychological one-upsmanship they both rapidly come to relish.

Visiting Channing's top-floor suite, Stiles turns on the hotel's porno channel to see if it will make her new friend uncomfortable. "I watch them all the time," the young corrival claims nonchalantly. "It's fascinating to see how men view sex." In an elevator full of middle-aged men, and dressed in swimsuits on their way to the pool, Stiles starts an argument implying the two are lesbian lovers. Channing is stunned at first, but soon plays along. In the sauna after their swim, she deliberately tweaks her elder, asking "Is this what a hot flash feels like?"

After forming a certain adversarial bond, Stiles throws a dangerous new coal on the fire when a slick, young business shark pal of Channing's (Frederick Weller) spots them in the bar (they've returned for more booze) and saunters over to schmooze. Stiles becomes visibly agitated and eventually reveals, in private, that she'd met Weller in college -- and he raped her best friend.

All this has played out with palpable tension under the taught direction of screenwriter and feature rookie Patrick Stettner, but the picture's pressure-cooker atmosphere becomes twice as thick as the women decide to avenge the entire female sex upon this contemptuous cad. At first they just make him ill at ease with some of the tricks they've been practicing on each other all night, but it doesn't take long for events to escalate exponentially.

The question of Stiles' veracity is intended to hang over the film like a storm cloud, but ironically it's in these later scenes that "Strangers" begins to lose some of its potency. Once you get a handle on the girl's manipulative personality, you have a pretty good idea how the movie will turn out, so the whole second half of this disquieting two-act drama starts to feel a little undercooked.

The intense themes of power, aging and sacrificed womanhood, and the sturdy performances of Channing and Stiles do buoy the picture until the finish line. But by the time it gets there some of the wind has gone out of its sails.



The Business Of Strangers

Facts and Figures

Run time: 84 mins

In Theaters: Friday 3rd May 2002

Box Office USA: $0.5M

Distributed by: IFC Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Fresh: 73 Rotten: 18

IMDB: 6.4 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Nick Harris, Marcus Giamatti as Robert

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

The latest adaptation of Agatha Christie's 83-year-old classic whodunit, this lavish, star-studded film is old-style...

Paddington 2 Movie Review

Paddington 2 Movie Review

The first Paddington movie in 2014 is already such a beloved classic that it's hard...

A Bad Moms Christmas Movie Review

A Bad Moms Christmas Movie Review

Everyone's back from last year's undemanding adult comedy, plus some starry new cast members, for...

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Movie Review

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Movie Review

Filmmaker S. Craig Zahler brought a blast of offbeat creativity to the Western genre two...

The Death of Stalin Movie Review

The Death of Stalin Movie Review

Fans of the film In the Loop and the TV series Veep will definitely not...

Call Me By Your Name Movie Review

Call Me By Your Name Movie Review

Set in northern Italy in the summer of 1983, this internationally flavoured drama is a...

Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review

Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review

The most riotously enjoyable Marvel movie yet, this action epic benefits hugely from the decision...

Advertisement
Breathe Movie Review

Breathe Movie Review

While this biopic has the standard sumptuous production values of a British period drama, it's...

The Snowman Movie Review

The Snowman Movie Review

With a cast and crew packed with A-list talent, this film seems like it should...

The Party Movie Review

The Party Movie Review

Comedies don't get much darker than this pitch-black British movie, written and directed by Sally...

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) is on his way to becoming the new Woody Allen, which...

6 Below Movie Review

6 Below Movie Review

Based on an astonishing true survival story, this film is subtitled "Miracle on the Mountain",...

Mother Movie Review

Mother Movie Review

Darren Aronofsky doesn't make fluffy movies, and has only had one genuine misfire (2014's Noah)....

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

It's been 35 years since Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic, which was set in 2019....

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.