19 July 2009

Movie Review: Management


2009, 94mins, R
Director: Stephen Belber
Writer: Stephen Belber
Cast includes: Steve Zahn, Jennifer Aniston, Woody Harrelson, Fred Ward, Margo Martindale
Release Date: 15th May 2009

Stephen Belber’s “Management” is a particularly disappointing romantic comedy in that it contains two talented leads but fails to spark love or laughter in it’s overdrawn 94 minutes. The film has been consistently marketed as a standard rom-com but after subjecting myself to Belber’s quirky and creepy view on the genre it’s safe to say that isn’t the case. I like a filmmaker who tries to do something different but not when the results are so objectionable and tedious, this is a cinematic oddity that should have stayed off screens altogether.

Mike (Steve Zahn) is a lonely 30-something working in his parent’s motel, grinding through his daily routine with a reliable but unenthusiastic approach. When Sue (Jennifer Aniston) a businesswoman checks in for two nights, Mike takes a chance and brings her a complimentary bottle of champagne. Out of both pity and her own sense of desperation Sue lets him touch her butt before later indulging in a little bit of laundry room hanky-panky, leaving Mike totally infatuated. Sue leaves but after a few days Mike decides to pursue who he now believes to be his true love but problems arise when it transpires Sue is engaged to her yogurt mogul ex-boyfriend (Woody Harrelson). Mike has to prove that his energetic and unshakable devotion is the love Sue needs rather than the security and future that her current partner can offer.

I consider myself both a modest fan of Zahn and Aniston but in “Management” the pair are little better than awful. Belber’s unattractive character conception doesn’t help matters but the performances on offer are shallow and unsympathetic whilst any chemistry between Aniston and Zahn is decidedly lukewarm. A good romantic comedy requires the love struck leads to spark some sort of realistic or magnetic connection but “Management” revolves around an utter damp squib of an emotional rollercoaster, creepier than cute and colder than ice. The opening of the romance is sordid and unbelievable, who after all would reward Norman Bates style activities with a free pass in a laundry room? The answer is sadly unappealing and unbelievable characters who the audience doesn’t feel for at all.

Belber’s desire to add layer upon layer of bizarre quirk is more a weakness than a strength, it’s something different but even the most well worn of rom-com templates is more effective than a fresh but utterly misfiring style of filmmaking. Thus one ponders if in his own egotistical quest for indie cred Belber has rendered the film awful, I certainly couldn’t connect on a romantic or comedic level with this monstrosity. The jokes are flat and more often than not cloyingly weird plus the film has a fixation with behinds that might make even the most immature big screen jester blush. A kind word should be spared for Woody Harrelson who is scarcely sighted but admittedly funny as Aniston’s beau but overall this is a mirthless experience.

The film was shot on a miniscule budget and so it’s failings as both a love story and laugh picture are only compounded by its technically abhorrent look. Granted had this been a lively and sweet fairytale I might have forgiven such superficial trespasses but ultimately in a bid to find something to like one ends up noticing the nasty visuals. Belber has managed to draw this story out to 94 minutes when surely it would operate better as a twenty minute short; indeed in that format this kooky little number might even have had a chance off success. However as a feature length piece this is an unfortunate offering which squanders both talent and time at an alarmingly wasteful rate.

A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009


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