The Business of Strangers (2001) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Julie is a successful corporate executive who, despite her brilliance, is riddled with insecurities. She hears that her boss is flying out to meet with her personally. She assumes that must mean she is to be fired. Quite to the contrary, it means he is stepping down voluntarily, and the board has approved her as the replacement CEO!

Paula is a 20-something executive assistant with contempt for the system. She's only working this demeaning corporate job to pay the bills until she can get a job which is worthy of her. She's an aspiring writer.


none, except for a brief look at the screen when the main characters watch a porno on the hotel TV

Their lives come together. Julie makes a big road show presentation, and blows the sale because Paula doesn't show up on time with her A/V support. Julie tells personnel over the phone that "Paula is fired, as far as she is concerned".

As luck would have it, flight delays force them to spend the night in the same airport hotel, where they engage in a battle of wills in which it is never completely clear who is manipulating whom.

This is basically a three character play: the two women and a male corporate headhunter who becomes a victim in their power struggle. Critics on both sides of the Atlantic loved the film, audiences couldn't have been less interested.


DVD info from Amazon.

  • widescreen anamorphic  format, 1.85:1

I thought that the script had a fatal flaw. Unlike other stories of this nature, where the partners take turns manipulating each other, each gaining, then losing, then regaining turf, this script never lets the older women have enough moments of control. It is completely obvious from their meeting in the hotel bar that, despite the contrary expectation based upon their stations in life, the young woman is doing all the manipulating and the older woman is her pawn. Because this is so completely evident, the script's last minute "surprises" aren't surprising at all, but merely confirmations of what we already suspect. Because of that, the film isn't nearly as interesting as the critics would have you believe, despite a bravura performance from Stockard Channing and some direction that does a good job of making the film feel "bigger" than what it really is, namely a three character play. 

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three stars. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 3/4, 4/5

  • General UK consensus: three stars. Daily Mail 6/10, Daily Telegraph 7/10, Independent 8/10, The Guardian 4/10, The Observer 7/10, The Times 6/10, Evening Standard 4/10, The Sun 8/10, The Express 6/10, BBC 4/5

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 6.7/10, Guardian voters 9.7/10
  • with their dollars: it tanked. Armed with some of the best reviews of the year, it proved totally unmarketable. It took in a million dollars over 19 weeks of arthouse distribution, never reaching as many as 70 screens, culminating with a sad final week of $238.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. The box office receipts, virtually non-existent despite critical raves, show that it is not a mainstream film. It is quite good in many respects, featuring a top-notch performance from Stockard Channing, and a script with some intelligence and some tantalizing ambiguities.

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