Management

2009-07-30 10:08
 
Management

What it's about:

Mike (Steve Zahn) is a lonely, lost soul, working as the night manager at his parents' motel. He falls head over heels for Sue (Jennifer Aniston), a travelling corporate art salesperson who checks into his motel for the night. Unable to rebuff his advances effectively, Sue obliges Mike just one small, weird wish that sets off an odd, long-distance relationship.

What we thought:

Steve Zahn – why isn’t he a bigger star? The actor perhaps best known for playing comical sidekicks and whipping boys in movies such as Daddy Day Care, Saving Silverman (aka Evil Woman) and Sahara has always been a reliable face on the big screen. But perhaps there lies the problem. Those films were generally panned upon release and quickly forgotten. But then Zahn made a scene-stealing appearance opposite Christian Bale as a POW in the harrowing Werner Herzog Vietnam War drama Rescue Dawn in 2006, in a performance that should have put him on the map and catapulted him to leading man status.

While he effectively is the lead in Management, the part is hardly going to do him many favours, despite the presence of Jennifer Aniston as the object of his affection. The problem is that Management, while cute and quirky on the surface, is actually an insightful drama about loneliness and regret that forgot what it wanted to be along its way to the big screen.

Zahn plays Mike as a man in arrested development; he is sweet, trustworthy and kind. His job is routine and dull, he doesn’t appear to have any friends, and the highlight of his day is meeting the new guests who check into the motel. What first attracts him to Aniston's Plain Jane Sue is a mystery. She's pretty enough, but Aniston, channelling her unhappily married character from The Good Girl (still her best movie role to date), is strangely disconnected and aloof, and ends up with no discernable personality. She barely even cracks a smile, and you get the feeling that both Aniston and the scriptwriter/director Stephen Belber have completely miscalculated this character.

If Management really was aiming to be an indie romantic comedy in the vein of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist or Garden State, then its safe to say its a bit of a failure. The too-real themes of sadness and alienation are treated with very little respect as Mike blindly stalks a woman who doesn't really warrant his affections. This is one of those rare instances where the goofy, heartsick guy is actually too good for the woman he is trying to win over. The comedy, of which there is precious little, feels half-hearted and disingenuous. Woody Harrelson is introduced as Sue's "psycho" boyfriend Jango halfway through (he's an ex-punk who doesn’t eat solid foods and has a BB gun) and, strangely, has very little to do as the obstacle that stands between Mike and his true love.

Whatever charm is in evidence is all Zahn's doing. He has cornered the market on lovable, naïve manchild characters and that sweet, puppy dog face of his just about rescues his character from being too weird. Despite the fact that the romantic release he is pining for is flimsy, you can't help but root for him, if only to see him happy.

Only the rewards for the viewer are slim as the plot takes a nonsensical but predictable path to its dreary end. Management ultimately feels like 90 minutes of missed opportunities masquerading as a feel-good frolic. Don't be fooled.


Jennifer Aniston pulls off the impossible, playing a personality-free woman pursued by a lonely man she doesn’t really deserve. An enjoyable romantic comedy this is not.

Angus Westley 2009/07/28 8:27 PM
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Just watched it, it is boring, flimsy and has no redeeming factors. Miss it at all costs....
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