Management, a quirky new comedy about the difficulties of love and relationships, stars some big names such as Jennifer Aniston (Bruce Almighty), Steve Zahn (Saving Silverman) and Woody Harrelson (White Boys Can't Jump). While Management succeeds in its attempts at quirkiness through the creation of oddball characters and awkward moments, it falls just short of really being a funny film.
Jennifer Aniston, best known for her years of great work on the hit television series Friends, plays Sue Clausson, a buttoned-down, businesslike and emotionally remote woman who seems to have given up on actually being able to find joy for herself. Instead, she focuses on making everyone around her better off. While traveling through Arizona, Sue stays a couple of nights at a nondescript roadside motel owned by Mike Cranshaw's (Steve Zahn) parents. Steve Zahn has a gift for playing truly offbeat and funny characters, and his portrayal of Mike Cranshaw is no exception. In Zahn's capable hands, Mike is an aimless daydreamer, the complete opposite of Sue. Mike takes an instant liking to Sue and while managing the motel's front desk one night, decides to approach Sue with a bottle of wine, compliments of the management. He invites himself into Sue's motel room to strike up an awkward conversation with her. After a couple more forced and almost senseless meetings, Sue's business as a corporate decorative art salesperson in Arizona is finished and she flies back home to Maryland.
Shortly thereafter, Mike uses all of his paltry savings account to purchase a one-way ticket to Maryland and surprises Sue by meeting her at her work. While Sue puts him on the first plane back to Arizona, she can't resist his very obvious love and devotion, as inexplicable as it may be. More surprise visits ensue until one day Mike shows up at Sue's work and is told she had gone back to her old boyfriend, a yogurt mogul named Jango, and moved to Aberdeen, Washington. Of course, Mike follows Sue and madness, comedy and more awkward moments develop as Mike tries to woo Sue away from Jango, played by a hilarious Woody Harrelson.
While Management overall did not end up as a funny film, there are some funny and touching moments, mostly derived from Mike's continued obliviousness and a talented supporting cast. Woody Harrelson gives Jango just the right amount of weirdness and malice to capture the flavor of a former punk musician turned yogurt mogul, making him one of the most interesting characters to watch in the movie. Harrelson's talents were vastly underused in this film, and his absence was felt from time to time. Steve Zahn's character, Mike eventually picks up a best friend in the form of Al (hilariously played by James Liao), a stoner and fellow aimless wanderer who's parents own a Chinese food restaurant where Mike eventually finds employment in Aberdeen. Any of the handful of scenes that manage to combine the talents of Zahn, Harrelson and Liao end up being some of the funniest in the film. Mike's unconditional love for Sue is quite touching at several moments in Management. Mike knows that Sue is determined to take care of everybody else at the expense of her own life and he is determined to be the one person who takes care of her instead. Margo Martindale and Fred Ward give wonderful, understated performances as Mike's parents, Trish and Jerry. Aniston's portrayal of Sue Clausson is very minimalist, which happens to work in the film. I do wish, however, that Aniston's very capable comedic abilities would have been brought out more. There were a handful of moments where Sue's honesty and utter lack of emotion brought a short laugh, but in general Aniston's Sue was so emotionally stunted that it was almost as if she were in a different film, and not in a comedy. Perhaps that is what director Stephen Belber was going for, but it seems that if you have a cast with this much talent, it should be used more.
In general, Management suffers mainly from a thin plot and lack of focus. Many scenes in Management had the feel of being improvised, which generally can yield a lot of laughs as long as the focus and depth of the plot remain intact. A few of the scenes in Management felt a little disjointed as they wandered off topic ever so slightly. If Belber's Management was meant to be a study of awkward human relationships, then he certainly succeeded.
Rated R. Runtime 93 min. Theatrical release 5/15/2009.
PR.com Rating: C+