Director: Stephen Belber
Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Steve Zahn, Woody Harrelson,
Fred Ward, James Hiroyuki Liao, Katie O'Grady, Yolanda Suarez
RunTime: 1 hr 34 mins
Released By: Festive Films & GV
Official Website: http://www.festivefilms.com/
Opening Day: 13 August 2009
MANAGEMENT is a romantic comedy that chronicles
a chance meeting between Mike Cranshaw (Steve Zahn) and Sue
Claussen (Jennifer Aniston).
When Sue checks into the roadside motel owned
by Mike's parents in Arizona, what starts with a bottle of
wine "compliments of MANAGEMENT" soon evolves into
a multi-layered, cross-country journey of two people looking
for a sense of purpose. Mike, an aimless dreamer, bets it
all on a trip to Sue's workplace in Maryland – only
to find that she has no place for him in her carefully ordered
down and obsessed with making a difference in the world, Sue
goes back to her yogurt mogul ex-boyfriend Jango (Woody Harrelson),
who promises her a chance to head his charity operations.
But, having found something worth fighting for, Mike pits
his hopes against Sue's practicality, and the two embark on
a twisted, bumpy, freeing journey to discover that their place
in the world just might be together.
The first thing that caught our attention about this comedy is how everybody’s favourite Friend Jennifer Anniston looks so, well, worn out. After all, the California born actress had her fair share of glitz and glam in showbiz – other than once known as one half of Hollywood’s Golden Couple that is Brad and Jennifer (the breakup proves that happy endings are still possible in the pretty world of Hollywood), she has also shone in older movies like Along Came Polly (2004) and Rumour Has It (2005) and the newer ones like Marley & Me (2008) and He’s Just Not That Into You (2009). So how did the pretty actress manage to go so low profile with his comedy, with its simple promotional poster and, gasp, her lack of star power in the trailer?
Anniston plays a traveling art saleswoman who meets a roadside motel night manager in a most unexpected manner: She checks into the motel run by his parents, he presents a bottle of wine “compliments of the management” (hence the title of this movie, we guess), and before the both of them know it, a cross country courtship between the two begins. Throw in a punk ex boyfriend, an Asian friend, and a monastery head, and what you get is this comedy that chronicles two people’s expeditions to find happiness in life.
And being a Hollywood production, no matter how frumpy or low key the stars get, there is a structure that makes us shake our heads one third into the 94 minute movie – yes, you know that feeling if you are a seasoned movie watcher, the one that tells you this is another “been there, done that” formula.
The Hollywood system is fond of churning out pleasing comedies like that to milk the money out of escapists who think that they can end up in happily ever afters like the movie protagonists (it’d be a bonus if your mate looks like Anniston too). Nothing wrong with that though, because if you bother to exercise your brains a bit, this picture does set out to evoke some reflective questions of what happiness is, and the lengths (some more radical and inventive than the others) people are willing to go to attain that happiness. However, as the story progresses, you are conveniently slipped into the given mode that things between the guy and girl will turn out fine. And despite the filmmakers’ attempts to pull one last plot twist before the credits roll, you know a happy ending is still in store for the mass audience.
To be fair, it starts out rather interestingly with the premise of the night manager delivering wine (twice!) to Anniston, hoping to pick her up. And the fact that she agreed to let him touch her butt is one of the funniest script plot we’ve seen in a while.
Another thing to watch out for in this Stephen Belber (TV’s Law and Order: Special Victims Unit) directed movie is its sparkling performances by the cast. Anniston’s subdued yet amusing performance aside, points go to male lead Steve Zahn (Sunshine Cleaning, Rescue Dawn) manages to hold his own beside his more popular co star. He will have you empathize with his character, despite him being a relentless stalker (the part where he parachutes into a pool had us laughing). Anniston and Zahn’s worthy performances are supported by Woody Harrelson’s (Semi-Pro, Battle in Seattle) hilarious portrayal as a violent ex boyfriend.
Sure, this movie may be accessible in terms of duration, and the individual cast members deliver commendable performances in their own rights, but it doesn’t save the movie from being an unoriginal take on how we can seek happiness.
(A been-there-done-that comedy that’s merely passable)
Review by John Li