Any similarities between the testosteronic smackdowns of In the Company of Men and the estrogenic mind games played out in an airport lounge between a Ms. magazine-era, middle-aged executive (Stockard Channing) and her Jane magazine-era young assistant (Julia Stiles) in The Business of Strangers are fully intended. Taken together, the two could form the core curriculum of a crash course in bad behavior in the age of corporate sterility.

But the life’s-unfair fact is that Men got there first and shocked better with its guerrilla anti-PC pugnacity. Strangers, a feature debut by writer-director Patrick Stettner, is more diagrammatic and less organic in its show-offy dismantling of the first-generation-feminist notion that Sisterhood Is Powerful; sisterhood, it turns out, is skin-deep, with the smooth retaining an edge over the wrinkled. None of this detracts, however, from the terrific piss-and-merlot performances of Channing and Stiles, or from the committed participation of Frederick Weller as a Neil LaBute-era businessman caught in the lounge between two she-devils disguised as businesswomen. B-

The Business of Strangers
  • Movie
  • 84 minutes