Our Rating: ★★★★☆
L Factor: Minor lesbian content
Short Take: A successful 50-something businesswoman (Stockard Channing) is manipulated by her 20-something intern (Julia Stiles).
Alternate Titles:
Year: 2001
Duration: 84 min
Language: USA/English
MPAA: R
Director: Patrick Stettner
Writer: Patrick Stettner
Starring: Stockard Channing, Julia Stiles, Fred Weller

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Business of Strangers

Julie (Stockard Channing, Grease, The West Wing, The First Wives Club) is a 50-something successful businesswoman on the road giving a presentation. Paula (Julia Stiles, Mona Lisa Smile, The Bourne Supremacy)  is a 20-something intern for the company and shows up late with all of the audio-visual materials, prompting Julie to fire her. When they meet later in the hotel bar, Julie feels bad and gives her back her job.

Paula worms her way into Julie’s room and creates a bit of sexual tension. Then in an elevator full of men on way down to the gym, she tells Julie that’s she’s sorry about before. When Julie doesn’t understand, she starts, ‘you know, the strap on,’ and Julie has a little fun too by playing along. It’s a bonding moment as they leave in laughter and then play in the pool. Everything points to the two of them ending up in a romantic encounter, but that’s not what happens at all. That would be too easy for Paula to pull off.

If you’re used to Julia Stiles playing the good girl, get ready for Paula. She’s a manipulator, seducing Julie into everything but her bed. She tells a story about Nick (Fred Weller, In Plain Sight), a man in the bar, saying that he raped her college roommate and sometime lover. When he follows them up to the room, Paula drugs him and gets Julie to help her take revenge on him.

Julie is really putty in Paula’s hands, until Julie finally realizes that she is being manipulated. Paula tries to get Julie to kiss her, but at this point, Julie thinks she isn’t going to let her have the upper hand anymore. Julie just doesn’t know what to think about this young woman and who really has the power between them.

And the next day … there’s Paula smirking at both Nick and Julie. Really interesting emotional interactions in this film, and both Channing and Stiles are excellent. (AB)