Stockard Channing ("The West Wing") and Julia Stiles (Save the Last Dance) star in a twisted, psychological game of manipulation and control in The Business of Strangers, a movie that smartly hovers in between a hilarious comedy and a hauntingly dark thriller.
Channing plays a powerful woman who has just been elected CEO of her company, and who just fired her brand new assistant (Stiles) for coming late to a meeting, despite it being out of her control. The women go in separate ways, neither thinking they will see each other ever again, but then end up crossing paths at an airport hotel when their flights are cancelled. They quickly form a bond, but as Channing finds out, this girl has a darker side to her, and while they appear to be friends on the surface, both woman are vying for control in the situation. And things lead down an even darker road.
The Business of Strangers is an oddly original movie, a blend of so many different things it is hard to explain. The movie has many hilarious scenes, especially in the first half, and many chillingly dark scenes in the second half. The movie is about as psychological as you get, with no real antagonist except for the characters' own selves, and as it boils down to the climax, things get pretty strange indeed.
Channing turns in an excellent performance, creating a character that still has a human side to her, but for the most part is consumed by her reputation and career. She knows how to have fun, but is this night the first night she has had fun in twelve years?
Stiles, though, steals the show. She is still mainly known for her teen comedies, but she is proving time and time again that she is capable of more intelligent, more adult fare. Where most of her peers will never become successful as they grow out of that "teenage" mold, Stiles is sure to be around. In The Business of Strangers, she plays a most interesting character, one that seems to be a girl like all the rest, but who has something to hide, some problems that she needs to deal with. Stiles creates the perfect two-faced character, someone who possibly has the ability to save her boss from a life of misery yet someone who cannot save themselves.
The Business of Strangers is one of the more interesting films I have seen in a long time. While the last half hour goes really slowly, writer/director Patrick Stettner does a superb job of allowing the mood of his film to continue to roll down a steep hill, not stopping until the end credits start rolling. As the film goes on, you continue to realize that things are only going to get worse for these women, and Stettner is consistent in his work. This is one of the better psychological thrillers of the last several years.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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