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Price Check

2012 | 92 min | Not rated

Price Check


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Theatrical release date

 16 November, 2012

Country of origin

 United States

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Price Check


Price Check Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, November 29, 2012

"Price Check" is an unassuming dark comedy that packs a decent punch. Using cover fire provided by the picture's workplace setting, with its numbing talk of stats and strategies, the screenplay is actually quite poisonous, treating the lure of temptation and casual lying with a refreshing forthrightness, unencumbered by melodrama. Guided by a fireball performance from Parker Posey, "Price Check" is uncomfortable to watch in all the good ways, finding authenticity from an ugly situation, while working through "Office Space" particulars with a sly sense of humor and an appreciation for the humiliation and anxiety of an exhaustive 9-5 life.

Pete (Eric Mabius) is a father to a young boy and husband to Sara (Annie Parisse), who long ago gave up on his dream to work in the music business to pursue financial stability, finding himself with a mid-level corporate job at a declining supermarket chain. His vocational slumber to broken by Susan (Parker Posey), the department's new boss, who promises to shake up the company with her radical ideas, instantly attaching herself to Pete and his impressive work and educational history. Handed a raise and more responsibility, Pete begins to embrace the daily grind, while Sara welcomes the extra cash to help cover their growing debts. However, while Pete takes his executive role seriously, Susan begins to wind herself into his life, soon instigating a sexual relationship that the employee has difficulty refusing, complicating an already impossible situation of workplace performance, with pressure amplified by company president Bennington (Edward Herrmann), who's eyeing Pete for a major promotion.

"Price Check" doesn't break any new ground in the subgenre, once again observing a dismal office situation where a team of unpleasant, neurotic employees (including comedian Amy Schumer in an amusing supporting role) chomp on donuts, gossip, and worry about their jobs. Writer/director Michael Walker doesn't pass on the opportunity to embrace cubicle woe, creating a community of paranoid people for Pete to navigate while he daydreams of a better life. It's the character of Susan that helps to bring "Price Check" to life, finding this abrasive, pep-monster of a woman erasing the routine of the building, using her newfound power to whip her department into shape, both literally, by encouraging gym memberships, and professionally, demanding total commitment from her sadsack underlings, leaving the crew shell-shocked and afraid. Except for Pete, who doesn't immediately process the shift once Susan's attention turns to him.

There are two sides to "Price Check," with a good deal of the movie devoted to Susan's business plan to make the supermarket chain competitive again. The new boss has a few drastic ideas on pricing and training, using her intensity to shock others into submission, slyly working the thin line between dominance and friendliness. Perhaps Walker has done his time with drone work, scripting a detailed business plan that Susan wields like a mace. Who knows if all the technical terms and boardroom battle plans have any basis in reality, but it sure does convince, generating a surprisingly compelling subplot where the team has to implement sweeping change into their immobile company, handing Pete and Susan plenty of private time, including a business trip to Los Angeles where their relationship contorts into lust.

The second half of "Price Check" sorts out Pete's indiscretion, though it's not a particularly tortured journey for the bored family man. Walker treats Susan's attraction as a natural step for the lead character, with Pete showing little remorse or hesitation with the invitation. There's discomfort with this carelessness, but also honesty, isolating the lure of temptation from a woman we've seen act with total instability on several occasions. Walker scripts rounded characters to process the conflict, never dipping into hysterics to provide an exit plan. "Price Check" isn't always easy to watch, but it's interesting to observe bad decisions and betrayals, especially when Pete comes across as such an affable guy. Nevertheless, underneath the complacency lies a restless soul yearning to return to the freewheeling days of his youth, only to discover how horribly passion pays.

Mabius is a strong as the deceptively settled man, intriguingly underplaying Pete's urges and thought process. However, "Price Check" is truly Posey's movie, delivering a blistering portrayal of Susan's manipulations and temper tantrums. She imagines the boss as a gladiatorial champion, with Susan using her wits and experience to encourage a false sense of trust, also insidiously instigating a friendship with Sara to help feel around a domestic situation she dearly craves for herself. Posey is seductive and energetic, playing the devil with a human touch, though one that's not always easy to understand. She's bravely unlikable and invested in Walker's script, turning "Price Check" from a mechanical comedic routine about office politics into something complex and occasionally dangerous. I wasn't aware Posey was even capable of this.

Starring: Juan Luis Acevedo, Frank Amoruso, Remy Auberjonois, Parker Posey, Cheyenne Jackson
Director: Michael Walker

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