***/**** Image A- Sound A-
starring Stockard Channing, Julia Stiles, Frederick Weller
written and directed by Patrick Stettner
by Walter Chaw Julie (Stockard Channing) is a hardened businesswoman on a lecture trip who becomes certain that her last day on the job draws nigh. When young Paula (Julia Stiles) arrives to a presentation late, Julie unleashes all her fears and frustrations on the hapless girl. Written with an ear for dialogue and a wicked edge, Julie's enthusiastic upbraiding of Paula sets the stage for three elements that drive The Business of Strangers to its conclusion. The first is the discomfort arising from Julie and Paula being stuck in the same hotel overnight due to grounded flights, the second is a possible explanation of the antagonism between the pair that culminates in a disturbingly open-ended finale, and the final is the idea that in Stettner's interpersonal corporate nightmare, fear is the mechanism that catalyzes the characters towards generosity, friendship, and cruelty.