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The Bottom Shelf #114

Jun. 28, 2007by:

Give me two people, an interesting situation that isn't really going anywhere, a DVD player and some microwave popcorn and what have you got? A California girl who knows how to occupy a few hours simply by pressing a button.

THE BUSINESS OF STRANGERS (2001)
Directed by: Patrick Stettner
Starring: Stockard Channing, Julia Stiles

-- click here to buy this DVD at Amazon.com --
-- click here to rent this movie at NetFlix.com --

There's nothing that can get me weaker in the knees than a good character study. OK, so maybe Quentin Tarantino, men with Canadian accents and Ben & Jerry's Dublin Mudslide work quicker. But let me tell you, a good character study runs a very close fourth. While I have been known to appreciate a good action flick, mindless, pointless and full of blood, I also like the other end of the mindless and pointless spectrum. Where nothing much happens but you get to identify and relate with a couple of people who you probably would have never run into in your personal day-to-day activities.

I doubt I ever would have met (or been able to tolerate) either of the two women profiled here. Channing is a weathered businesswoman on the verge of what she assumes will be her firing from a large electronics company that she's been working for. Stiles is the young woman hired to be the assistant with the audio/visuals for one of Channing's meetings, but due to a delayed plane flight misses her scheduled time and incurs her superior's wrath. When Channing discovers that she's not being fired but instead promoted to the company's CEO, their paths cross again. A friendship is not exactly how I would categorize what happens between them next, but a great examination of what people are capable of when they have their backs up to the wall through their own doing does unfold.

There is an overbearing presence of melodrama in this movie that I could have done without. The hinted suggestion that Channing might be a lesbian simply because she is a long-time business woman got on my nerves, but I suppose that was the point of it. To understand that tension that her character must go through in her line of work. Stiles still seems far too young for this role (and the fake tattoos are entirely too distracting, but that's coming from someone who is familiar with people who are covered in real tattoos) yet she still possesses a maturity that is unrivaled by the other actresses in her age group. However, it is Channing that shines brilliantly here. Always a go-to actress for strong and memorable female characters, she delivers yet again. Filmed at the time that she was 57 years old but looking at least 10 years younger, I can see the desperation in her face that translates to more than just her character in the movie being passed over by younger woman. It's in her reality as well. And that's a damn shame.

Favorite Scene:

In the elevator with a strap-on. Yeah, you know you wanna watch the movie now, don'tcha?

Favorite Line:

"I don't have to go to Japan to get stepped on 'cause I've got tits. I get a big dose of that right here, in my native tongue."

Trivia Tidbit:

Allison Janney, one of Channing's co-stars from The West Wing, starred in a short that writer/director Stettner made 5 years prior to this movie.

See if you liked:

THE NIGHT LISTENER, TAPE, TWILIGHT

LOVE JONES (1997)
Directed by: Theodore Witcher
Starring: Larenz Tate, Nia Long

-- click here to buy this DVD at Amazon.com --
-- click here to rent this movie at NetFlix.com --

The first time that I remember seeing Larenz Tate was in the movie MENACE II SOCIETY where he played a violent, foul mouthed young gang member. It was in that performance that he first gained recognition and managed to get type cast. The good thing about Tate is that he doesn't keep doing the same thug roles and seems to purposefully pick strong roles which explore every dynamic. The bad thing is that he doesn't seem to get hired very often. And it's a damn shame.

There really isn't anything particularly unique to the story that is laid out in LOVE JONES. It's follows a young couple, two intelligent people who are obviously and instantly attracted to one another. She's just gotten out of a bad relationship, and in the modern era of never really defining where a relationship is heading, the two of them set no boundaries and make no declarations. They're yet another one of our generations couples that are just "having fun." It is in the mood and demeanor of the lead characters that this movie turns out so well. Two strong actors (Tate and Long) who clearly have nailed their character's motivations as well as a cast of strong supporting players make this a movie that I wouldn't define as being romantic. I think of LOVE JONES as being damn sexy.

Because there isn't a definable plot and the themes are tired, I can see where people might lose patience with its slow direction. Personally, I feel it adds to the movie's appeal. Relationships with two intense but tentative people are going to take their time, sometimes stalling, sometimes stopping and sometimes raring back up again. This flick solidly conveys a real relationship between two smart people, unable to make definitive decisions in their romantic lives. And let's face it, reality isn't as cracked up as they make it out to be on TV shows. It's quiet, it's consistent and it has its good and bad moments.

Favorite Scene:

The scene where Long starts taking pictures of Tate, asking him to remove his clothes.

Favorite Line:

"When a man gets a hard on, you know where the blood come from, right? You know where the blood come from, right? His head and his feet. So A - he's stupid and B - he can't run."

Trivia Tidbit:

Actress Lisa Nicole Carson, in a role as the best friend of the lead female character, has since gotten herself blackballed by many Hollywood producers and directors for her unprofessional work ethic.

See if you liked:

JASON'S LYRIC, BOOMERANG, WAITING TO EXHALE

I find it funny that I really like people when it comes to watching them on film, but for the most part in reality... I hate people. *shrug*

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