Judge Daniel Kelly thinks this is a case of bad filmmaking management.
Our review of Management (Blu-Ray), published September 29th, 2009, is also available.
Some moments just feel right.
Management is being marketed as a straightforward Hollywood rom-com, a film devoted to the ditzy templates of the genre with little interest in diverting from the norm. For the most part this isn't true; at times the film offers up the familiar scent of screwball slapstick or broad faced gags, but ultimately Stephen Belber's movie wants to be something a little quirkier and edgier. Sadly, the director/writer fails to make his weird and vaguely creepy romantic escapade work. I'm all for mixing it up, but on this occasion one feels Belber might have been smarter to play this beast closer to the conventional line.
Lonely and more than a little dispirited with life at his parent's motel, Mike (Steve Zahn, Sahara) gets a much needed jolt when businesswoman Sue (Jennifer Aniston, Office Space) checks in for two nights. Bolstering up the confidence to talk to her, Mike brings a complimentary bottle of champagne to her room, and in a moment of desperation and pity, on Sue allows Mike to touch her butt and later have sex.
Mike, now fully infatuated, is heartbroken when Sue leaves as predicted without much sadness or apparent emotion, leaving Mike to return to his daily grind at the motel. However, having tasted love, Mike decides to track her down and proclaim his desire, but things take a turn for the worst when he realises she has gotten engaged to her Yogurt mogul ex-boyfriend Jango (Woody Harrelson, Semi-Pro).
Over the years I've become fond of both Jennifer Aniston and Steve Zahn. Her stint on Friends and appearances in films like The Good Girl have reinforced her abilities as an actress and comedienne whilst Zahn has shown robust comedy chops in several pictures undeserving of him. However both are nothing short of dismal in Management, and there is no chemistry, energy, or conviction in the lead performances. A lot can be forgiven when a romantic comedy pulls out a pair that go well together and generate a believable heat, but the core love-struck pursuit in Management is cold and creepy. It's hard to adjust to a film that wants the audience to root for the lead players when their romance feels so forced and unhealthy.
Belber adds a layer of bizarre to his film in order to up its originality, and whilst it's fair to say I've never experienced anything quite like it before, I would also have to confess never would I want to feel Belber's odd style of romance again. The structure of the film just feels wrong and rushed whilst the characters' judgement in certain situations is freakishly unusual. The opening 20 minutes sees Zahn behave like Norman Bates, yet Aniston moments later is seen giving him a free pass in the laundry room. Surely in reality no half sensible person would succumb to such an act of sheer stupidity, a key reason why Management is both a hard film to enjoy—or more accurately, endure.
In terms of comedic success Management also misfires, the off-the-wall antics raising only a few minor titters throughout. I guess it's hard to see the hilarity in Mike's frankly disturbing and unquestioning pursuit of a woman whose butt he likes, but the more direct forms of laugh fuel also burn out fast. Woody Harrelson is decent as Sue's egotistical ex-boyfriend, but Belber's various wacky situations and dialogue just don't provide enough chuckles or guffaws. In a bid to separate himself from the rom-com crowd he has effectively forgotten that sometimes a wider sense of comedy appeal can actually improve the standing of your film. I'm sure there are those who will revel in the odd lashings of comedic weirdness present in Management but it's guaranteed that they will be a small minority. Very small.
The writing fails to make the audience care for the central characters or romantic triangle but also drags the story out to an insufferable degree. At 94 minutes Management is criminally overlong, indeed the concept might actually have been better suited to a twenty minute short. There are too many needless characters and frustrating subplots for the audience to maintain interest indeed by the forty minute mark boredom has heartily set in. Belber's film was also shot on a tiny budget and it shows, Management is a horrible picture to look at, an eye sore amidst both the art house and multiplex arenas.
The film was granted only a small limited run in theatres earlier this year an act of supposed mercy from the movie gods. I found Management a sour and tedious experience far removed from the sweet and cute vibe its various posters and trailer seem to be purveying. The two leads are certainly worthy of better and more agreeable material, and whilst I have to give minor praise to Belber for trying something different, it sort of gets totally revoked due to the fact he has misjudged virtually every minute.
This disc was a screener copy and so featured no bonus features along with picture and audio of dubious quality. Thus none of these factors have been assessed when incorporating the final scores for this release.
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