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The Business of Strangers

The Business of Strangers

The Business of Strangers is being called a gender twist on the incisive In the Company of Men from Neil LaBute which starred Aaron Eckhart (Erin Brockovich).  Here, writer/director Patrick Stettner has the fine company of seasoned veteran Stockard Channing (Six Degrees of Separation) and rising, young star Julia Stiles (Save the Last Dance and O) who displays versatility in this independent holiday release.

Women will most likely be attracted to this character driven script, which works because of what Channing and Stiles do with their parts.  The former is a middle-aged business executive and the latter is learning what adulthood is about.  The relationship between them drives The Business of Strangers with its uncertainties of dealing with the opposite sex in a relatively short running time.

Channing's Julie, who is away on business to meet her company CEO for lunch, thinks she's about to be terminated.  On the contrary, she is promoted and becomes the top dog.  Paula, played with edge and tenacity by Stiles, is Julie's assistant.

Julie gives her writing colleague a break and an uneasy bond develops which leads to the pulse of The Business of Strangers.  They both understand it's time to enjoy Julie's career success.

In a plot turn similar to the concurrent Tape, Paula lets her boss and party pal know that Frederick Weller's Nick committed a terrible act against a friend while in college.  The reaction of the two women may have the emotion of Thelma & Louise, but the combination adds up to something about how women find strength in a world where they are at a disadvantage.

If the narrative isn't as diverting as possible, then there is something to appreciate especially from Channing and Stiles in roles they probably worked hard to get.   Julie has a confident air about her, yet isn't as joyful as her success would indicate.  And Paula can be a conniving, fiery journalist who counters Julie's look in ways that allow The Business of Strangers to be more than a passable, manipulative chick flick.

The Business of Strangers

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