Thursday, July 30, 2009

Movie Review: ‘Management’ is this year's Little Miss Sunshine

By Nick van der Leek

Management is one of those flicks that er…manages to fly under the radar and boomerangs back as a hit. It’s in the same boat as flicks like The Big Blue, Little Miss Sunshine, The 40 year old Virgin, Gran Torino and most recently, Twilight. It’s often the title that relegates these flicks to the DVD store, and this is doubly true of ‘Management’.

You’ll love ‘Management’ if, like me, you’re a sucker for unrequited love stories. Most of ‘Management’ revolves around a mostly unsuccessful pursuit, but it does so without being too sappy, or too zany. This flick certainly avoids, through its smart script and thoughtful boundary keeping, straying towards the syrupy or lead-heavy topic that epitomize this theme. Instead, it’s enjoyable, light and lyrical.

Now, having seen the movie, I’m not sure if ‘Management’ is the best title, but I can see where they’re coming from. The poster also makes one feel a bit ‘iffy’ about watching it. Is this a movie about Jennifer Aniston wearing the pants? Is it an office romp?

The clue lies in the subtitle, “A Touching Comedy”. What sold me on going to see it was the cast [Aniston as workaholic travelling art seller Sue, Woody Harrelson in a cameo as an ex-punk, and Steve Zahn as the motel loser Mike who falls for her]. So no, there are virtually no offices in ‘Management’ – the title refers to Mike [Steve Zahn’s] reference to himself when he first introduces himself to her, and that provides a good basis for understanding what the filmmakers were trying to achieve: How ‘Management’ evolves.

‘Management’ is really about the growth of little boy blue Mike, who is transformed in his love from a simple mom and pop motel schmuck to something more. Not much more, but he certainly gains a little substance, even insight, along the way, and all get to learn from this.

It’s definitely an off-beat, off kilter film. A couple who entered the cinema 5 minutes late left half-way through. If you want snazzy, sexy, in your face action – give this a miss. ‘Management’ has a gentle, disarming subtlety, which starts off silly and apparently lacking direction, and then gathers momentum, and it has to be said, charm.

‘Management’ has a couple of unexpected laugh-out-loud moments. Mike [Zahn’s] pursuit of Sue crosses many stalker boundaries, but his fault-ridden approach comes across as harmless. The object of his affections does ask him at one point: “Has this approach ever worked for you?” and he concedes, “No.”

It is in the last third of this 93 minute flick that ‘Management’ really gains traction, and surprisingly, imparts a few rib poking insights. Aniston extends herself in this performance. After ‘Marley and Me’ we see a more cerebral version, more taught, and several layers deeper. She’s also dressed down and yet we suspect there’s something more to that sexy butt. ‘Management’ is less about Aniston though. She is the catalyst, and Steve Zahn’s performance is credibly funny, and astonishingly, touching.

In ‘Management’ you get a fairground attraction, and a lot of fun and food for thought besides.

Score: 7.5/10

RATING: R (language)
CREDITS: Written and directed by Stephen Belber
RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes

Read the review in the Washington Times.

No comments: