The Business of Strangers
Female bonding. Paula and Julie (Stiles and Channing) exorcise their demons...
dir-scr Patrick Stettner
with Stockard Channing, Julia Stiles, Frederick Wellner, Mary Testa, Jack Hallet, Marcus Giamatti, Buddy Fitzpatrick, Salem Ludwig, Shelagh Ratner
release US Nov.01 sliff; UK 3.May.02
01/US 1h24

4 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
the business of strangers Set in the soulless world of corporate travel, this fiercely sharp film captures a creepy encounter between two powerful women. Julie (Channing) is a self-doubting executive who's just about to be made CEO of the company ... although she thinks she's going to get the sack. In an anonymous airport hotel, she clashes with her assistant Paula (Stiles), a tough young woman who speaks her mind. As the evening wears on, they drink a lot of Scotch and then start playing a twisted game with a headhunter (Wellner), also stranded due to airport chaos. As things get increasingly sinister, the power struggle between these women becomes remarkable.

It's so well played that we are drawn right into it all; Channing is astonishing, never hitting a false note as the woman who has it all, but isn't sure if she wants it. And Stiles matches her step after wicked step as the naive rich girl whose eloquent rage and bitterness isn't completely believable. Holding it all together, writer-director Stettner does wonders both with his direction (making the most of the blandness of the settings, capturing the washed-out lighting and low humming noises perfectly) and his script, which is spare and right to the point ... yet filled with humour and layers of subtext. This is a stunning examination of issues of doubt and control, as well as a cracking good little thriller.
adult themes and situations, language, violence cert 15 24.Oct.01 lff

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2001 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall