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It's lust at first sight for laid-back motel night manager Mike when Sue , an uptight sales rep, checks in. Convinced that Sue is his dream girl, Mike shakes up his slacker life in an outrageous pursuit across the country. But can he steal her away from her hot-tempered boyfriend? Both Mike and Sue must go on their own twisted journeys to find out if what they really need is each other.
For more about Management and the Management Blu-ray release, see the Management Blu-ray Review
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Steve Zahn, Woody Harrelson, Margo Martindale, Tzi Ma, Fred Ward
Director: Stephen Belber
» See full cast & crew
Management Blu-ray Review
I’d like to speak with this rom-com’s supervisor.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, October 3, 2009
And so Jennifer Aniston cashes another check, Steve Zahn wastes his talents in another overgrown puppy dog role, and video stores receive yet another romantic comedy that will gather dust on a back shelf or end up face-down in the bargain bin. The genre has never been the go-to destination for depth or authenticity, but what is it about rom-coms that inspires such dippy ridiculousness, such unfettered emotional cloying? I can handle tepid dramas and bad horror films. I'll even sit through dull-as-dirt documentaries on the off-chance that I'll learn something, anything. But there's nothing more torturous, more unintentionally sadistic than a romantic comedy that doesn't work. Management certainly isn't the worst specimen I've encountered—that honor probably goes to the miscarried Baby on Board—but it tugs at the heartstrings with all the finesse of a ham-fisted harpist, and overall it's about as bland and undistinguished as a painting in a cut-rate motel room.
Mike (Steve Zahn) is the thirty-something night manager at the Kingman Motor Inn, the motel owned by his loving but emotionally distant parents. Stuck in a constipated existence—setting out the continental breakfast, unplugging toilets, smoking like a chimney—Mike goes a bit overboard when traveling saleswoman Sue Claussen (Jeniffer Aniston) checks in for the night while in town on business. In what has to be one of the most patently improbable scenes in rom- com history, Mike carries a bottle of leftover Christmas champagne up to Sue's door, and when he knocks she's surprised but actually lets him into her room. Discount motels are unsettling enough as it is, and I'm pretty sure any sensible woman would slam the door in his idiotically grinning face. The same exact thing happens the next night, but this time Sue lets Mike touch her butt if he promises to leave her alone. Needless to say, it doesn't end at that— there's some hanky panky in the laundry room—and soon enough Mike is basically stalking her cross-country, showing up a week later at the office park where she works in suburban Baltimore. Except, it's not stalking because Zahn has such adorable puppy dog eyes.
Yes, it's more than a little implausible, especially considering Sue isn't at all weirded out by any of this, but as the film wears on (and on, and on) the attempts at comedy get broader and the creepiness subsides into plain old absurdity. At one point, Sue goes back to her former boyfriend Django (a wasted Woody Harrelson), an ex-punk, dog-training, organic yogurt magnate. No, I'm serious. Mike picks up her trail and follows her to Aberdeen, Washington, where he takes a job at a Chinese restaurant. Then, instead of knocking on Django's door like a normal person, he skydives into the punk's swimming pool, surprising Sue and inciting Django to pelt him with pellets from an AK-47-shaped BB gun. It's over-the-top, unrealistic, and doesn't jive at all with the film's previously established tone. The latter half of the film, then, goes completely scatterbrained, as if first-time director Stephen Belber felt pressured to unload all of his wacky ideas in one go. By the time Mike joins a monastery filled with volleyball-playing Buddhist monks, the movie has effectively imploded into a black hole swirling with inane dialogue and unearned emotion. I get it, they're going for a cutesy, quirky, indie-comedy vibe—complete with twee-pop guitar and guy/girl harmonizing, a la Juno—but Zahn and Aniston seem a little old for this.
It's a shame, because I really like Steve Zahn. He's been relegated lately to mostly b-level material, but whenever he gets a chance to tackle more dramatically hefty roles, like in Werner Herzog's Rescue Dawn, he completely impresses. Here, he turns in a moderately funny performance, despite some clumsy and poorly scripted dialogue. Chalk it up to his personality or maybe just his face—I always thought he looks like a cross between Michael J. Fox and Viggo Mortensen—but he's got that cuddly, comic best-friend thing down pat. I did appreciate that his character is completely free of irony or sarcasm. Instead, he's a painfully honest man-child who, if nothing else, makes a satisfying arc over the course of the narrative. On the other side, Aniston once again plays wearily winsome, but though her ho-hum demeanor is precisely what the character calls for, it doesn't exactly transfer into on-screen chemistry with Zahn. And therein lies the rub. Management simply doesn't sell their relationship. You can throw in all the gags and jokes you want, but if the romance side of a rom-com doesn't hold up, the A-frame completely collapses.
Management Blu-ray, Video Quality
Management's production value is evident in the film's dull look, but this 1080p/AVC- encoded transfer ain't half bad. I'll say this—the film looks miles better than the horrible box-art, on which Steve Zahn and Jennifer Aniston's faces have been photoshopped into oblivion. Considering the film's low-budget pedigree, the image is fairly sharp and detailed, showing fine texture work in faces and a decent sense of overall clarity. Just check out the crisp delineation of the lines on Aniston's corduroy coat. The lifeless color palette leaves a lot to be desired, however, and the image rarely feels like it has any depth or presence. Black levels crush on occasion, particularly during the scene in the country western bar, and at times the image has a slightly overheated, artificial quality. You will notice some grain, mixed in with a little bit of noise, but there's nothing really distracting about this transfer. Overall, the look isn't bad, just cheap.
Management Blu-ray, Audio Quality
I do have a few complaints about Management's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. I don't know who supervised the ADR sessions or the dialogue mix, but I noticed on several occasions a sudden drop in volume while characters were speaking. Like, Steve Zahn would be mid-sentence, and all of the sudden his voice would sound quieter than before. There's also a strange pop and audio dropout at the 8:16 mark that muffles Jennifer Aniston's dialogue for a split second. It actually threw me off a little, and it seems inexcusable for such a modern production. In all other ways, the track is capable but unremarkable. Rear channels get some interaction via subtle ambience, like chatter in a bar, rushing water by the riverside, and singing crickets, but the surround speakers get the most play from bleeding musical cues, which also offer the track a few chances to show off a decent dynamic range.
Management Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Commentary with Actor Steve Zahn and Director Stephen Belber
"As a first-time director, I had very little idea what I was doing," says Belber right off the bat, and though he's somewhat joking, you'll probably agree if you've seen the film already. This commentary track proves to be the highlight of the complete package, film included, as it features Steve Zahn busting himself up near constantly.
Deleted Scenes (SD, 15:18 total)
Includes The Piano Lesson, Mike Gets Beat Up, Sex Advice From Barry, Mike and Jed Do Yoga, Mike Does Coke, Punk Theory - Dog Demo, Mom's Ashes, and Josh Lucas - Local Porn Star.
Gag Reel (SD, 12:41)
This must be some kind of world record for the longest, dullest gag reel in home video history. Kind of fitting though.
Trailer (SD, 2:32)
Management Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Having dropped my complaints in the box addressed to Management, I don't have much left to say. The film isn't torture—I managed a few mild chuckles over the duration—but it is saccharine, dull, and tonally unfocused. Less discerning rom-com lovers may want to venture a cautious rental, but I'd advise all others to stay away.
Management Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Management Blu-ray Gets Detailed - July 13, 2009
Image Entertainment has disclosed the release details for the movie 'Management', starring Jennifer Aniston and Steve Zahn, that will hit store shelves on Blu-ray on September 29. Bonus features will include an audio commentary with actor Steve Zahn and director ...
• Aniston's Management on BD for September - June 10, 2009
Image Entertainment has announced that it will release the Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy 'Management' on September 29, day-and-date with the DVD. The movie will be presented in 1.85:1 1080p AVC, accompanied by a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. No information ...
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