Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Movie Log: Management

Steve Zahn plays even dumber than usual in Management, a rambling romantic comedy that has a sweetness that makes up for the aimless meanderings of the plot. He plays Mike, a guy who works as the night manager (and general gofer) at his parents' mid-level motel in Kingman, Arizona.

Mike is a fairly typical Zahn boy-man -- distinguishable from the various other modern sorts of boy-men mostly by being played by Zahn, and by being on the sweet side, rather than petulant or appalling -- and we don't get a good sense of what kind of person he is before Jennifer Aniston shows up, as traveling motel-art saleswoman Sue Claussen. Mike is smitten by Sue, but we can see his attraction is purely physical, and the audience suspects that he's reacted this way to dozens of women at the motel.

(To put it bluntly, he comes across as a borderline stalker: bringing wine to her room both nights of her stay and hanging around her room making uncomfortable conversation. He's probably supposed to read as sweet and innocent, but innocent doesn't go well with blind lust. She gets rid of him the second time by letting him touch her butt, which isn't as funny or sexy as the filmmakers might have hoped. Most of the first reel or so of Management is borderline uncomfortable to watch, actually.)

For no reason that I or The Wife could discern, Sue has a quickie with Mike in the laundry room just before she leaves town. This is badly motivated -- Sue is bemused by Mike, but there's no plausible reason for her to want to sleep with him; a random stranger from a bar would be at least as appealing -- but necessary to set in motion the rest of the movie.

For Mike is now completely smitten, and so follows Sue back home to a random office park outside Baltimore in a poorly-thought-out plan to...well, that's what happens when you don't think your plans out. Luckily, she's not instantly in love with him, or secretly carrying his baby, or such rot; she's polite and nice but bundles him back to Arizona before too long.

And the movie meanders on from there, with Mike making more cross-country trips in the course of ninety minutes than many of us make in a decade. They both end up in Aberdeen, Washington, where Sue has become betrothed to an ex-punk yogurt magnate named Jango -- played by Woody Harrelson -- and Mike gets a job in a Chinese restaurant and a sidekick in the owners' son. By the time Management detours to a Buddhist monastery, the viewer has long passed the point of being able to anticipate the movie, though it always stays amiable and pleasant.

Do Sue and Mike get together in the end? Is their a life-lesson to be learned? Are their plans for a life together massively unlikely, even if very good-hearted? Well, this is a romantic comedy, so you get one guess.

Management doesn't have a surplus of plausibility, so the viewer will have to spot it about a quart or so, or top off along the way when the tank runs low. It's a pleasant movie, but its characters are collections of traits rather than people and their motivations entirely controlled by the necessities of a very odd and rambling plot. Aniston and Zahn are both cute, which I suppose is the main draw -- unless you're looking for a romantic comedy that doesn't follow the usual cliches, in which case you are massively in luck: Management invents the cliches of the planet Zarquon as it goes.

No comments:

Post a Comment