||Issue No. 137||24 May 2002|
An Aussie Icon
Interview: Just Done It?
Tribute: Lest We Forget
History: Solidarity Forever
Technology: Unblocking the Superhighway
International: Gloves Off
Unions: Out Of Work
Review: Strange Business
Poetry: The Lawyer's Lament
Satire: Government Mourns Loss Of Last Anzac
The Locker Room
Week in Review
Your Tools Page is Down
Big Dave Foster
Give Us a Click!
Will the Real Mark Latham Please Stand Up?
The Last Survivor
Not Hate Mail
The Business of Strangers follows the story of a successful businesswoman who has been to paradise but has never been to her. That is if the carefully manufactured perfection of endless hotel rooms, starched designer suits and worldly success can constitute paradise.
For Julie Styron (played by Stockard Channing) it has come close. Julie is a woman who has come from hardship and yearns for the security she lacked as a child. She alone is all she depends on and it is her own hard work that has brought her to the top of her field.
Yet no matter how far Julie comes she never feels safe, content or able to relax her tight controlling grip. Whenever her sense of control is challenged, she lashes out. This is how she comes to sack on the spot her assistant for turning up late for an important presentation. Not that the assistant, Paula (played by Julia Stiles), is fazed. For her this was only ever a "money job" anyway.
But despite Julie's worst fears that she herself is on the verge of getting the sack, this is one woman going nowhere except to the highest echelons of her company. Far from wanting to get rid of her, the organisation promotes her to CEO. This is a move that so surprises Julie, it throws her into inner turmoil as she grapples to understand what it means in the context of her life.
Enter once more young Paula whose brash style and flair for the controversial helps Julie do just this. Paula appoints herself as a veritable judge and jury to Julie, while steering her through an intense psychological drama that enables her to finally step outside her comfort zone.
What ensues is a sometimes funny, often challenging and ultimately exhausting string of events that exposes the protective web of illusions Julie has wrapped around herself until now. Like her hotel window that cannot be opened, Julie might well ask if its purpose is to stop her from breathing the fresh air or to keep her from jumping.
This film does not judge as erroneous Julie's sacrifices for the sake of her career. Instead it exposes the level of sacrifice women sometimes find it necessary to make in order to achieve success in the top levels of male dominated organisations. Nobody forced Julie to make her decisions but she is so used to "getting stepped on because she has tits" it is understandable that the course her business survival instincts have navigated for her has left little room for a personal life.
Her hard work has paid off but she has traveled so far from her essence in the process that she feels she has lost touch with herself and lost touch with life. She reveals that quitting her job is no longer an option because "if you take away this job, I don't know what you got".
In this sense her predicament is not one restricted to women. Male and female workaholics throughout the world are susceptible to suffering to this inner numbness from time to time. It is when it becomes a way of life that it becomes truly dangerous.
Fortunately for Julie she is able to reconnect with herself in time to see it as an issue. Once identified as such she also finds a few answers.
Fortunately for the sake of the business world the answers do not necessarily involve quitting her job, settling down and raising a family with some 1950s caveman type.
And hopefully now that Julie is CEO of the company things will be done a little differently. Since waking up to the dangers of too much work and not enough compassion, workers under her care will hopefully be treated a little better. This is a boss who must surely now understand the importance of reasonable hours, appropriate leave arrangements, counseling, support and of having no fear of summary dismissal for missing just one bloody meeting, no matter how important.
The Business of Strangers is not shy about falling back on a few cliches but it also gives the moviegoing public credit for having the intelligence to draw their own conclusions and make their own judgments.
It provides a choice between trust and fear: two perceptions that can completely alter the experience of life as well as the enjoyment of this movie. It also presents a perplexing picture of a world in which many have allowed the pursuit of material gain to provide an illusion of control at the expense of enjoying an organic existence.
Three out of five stars *** (grow your own)
|Search All Issues | Latest Issue | Previous Issues | Print Latest Issue|
© 1999-2002 Workers Online