The premise isn't new - dweeb falls for babe - babe finds him repulsive at first, but then grows to love his sincerity and ordinary ways - dweeb and babe ride off into the sunset having both grown into nice people. Yeah right!
It's a hard sell at the best of times, but "Management" just about pulls it off - and it does so because of excellent writing and the stunning acting capabilities of its two principal leads.
STEVE ZAHN plays the hapless, but sweetly naïve Mike Cranshaw who is living and working with his parents in their small motel "The Kingman Motor Inn" in the town of Kingman in Arizona (off Route 66). Mike's Mum Trish is effectively running the solid but uninspiring joint (a beautifully understated performance by MARGO MARTINDALE), while her says-little and does-even-less husband Jerry (FRED WARD at his effective best) seems stuck in a rut he doesn't know how to get out of.
Life at the Motel is routine and boring - especially for the friendless and womanless Mike. But just occasionally - he gets up enough courage to bring a bottle of plonk around to a lady guest in her chalet and try on his `complimentary' wine routine. It never works. But this time - Mike's heart gets more than it bargained for when it encounters the big-city, tight-suited Jennifer Aniston character Susan Claussen, who's in town from Baltimore to flog paintings to corporate clients. Planes to appointments, car rentals to accommodation and a laptop on the bedside, she is the very epitome of a young executive woman going places. Mike is the last person in the world Sue would consider dating, let alone spending a lifetime with...the idea is almost laughable to her. But of course she keeps coming back to his sweetness and he pursues her because he's besotted and simply doesn't understand 'no' - nor get the meaning of boundaries.
Along the way Mike encounters Zen Buddhists, takes piano lessons, sleeps in a basement in a Chinese restaurant and jumps out of a plane. There's one particularly great scene where Sue figures if she lets Mike touch her perfectly formed posterior, he'll give up and she can get on with her presentation notes and get a night's sleep (title above). She leans over and presents the said rear for his delectation. With his hand placed on her right cheek, they talk about weather conditions in Maryland - it's both visually and lyrically - very, very funny.
But what keeps you watching is the growing tenderness between the two. Mike may not be the smartest tool in the kit, but he is heartfelt and sincere - and in many ways despite her obvious intelligence and affluence, Sue isn't. She needs to learn that and he needs to grow up. Woody Harrelson also turns up in a great pantomime role as the ex-punk-rocker Jango who is now rich through dog handling. Later Mike's Mum Trish becomes gravely ill - thereby presenting the two men in her life with changes both may not want but need...and on it goes.
Written and Directed by first-timer STEPHEN BELBER and produced by SIDNEY KEMMEL, the offbeat rom-com "Management" hit the US screens in May 2009 receiving excellent reviews. And on the strength of this September 2009 BLU RAY - it's easy to see why.
I first spotted Steve Zahn in a wonderful film called "Happy, Texas" where he was paired up with Britain's Jeremy Northam as two escaped convicts trapped in a hick town which tames their thieving ways and changes both of them for the better. Zahn's been bubbling under for years, but in "Management" he really shines. A lesser actor might have overdone the inner nerd to go for hammy laughs - and in the real world his character's ludicrous naivety might even have been insufferable, but Zahn makes you ache for Mike's attempts at wooing Susan.
Aniston is more capable now as an actress than she's ever been. Her character's disbelief and dismissive awkwardness at first is so believable - and as the movie progresses - her barriers very subtly start coming down - to a point where you really do believe she would look at Mike as a 'nice guy' - and as 'good for her' - and that's more important than all the material crap in-between. She is superb in the part.
Although it feels like an Indie production, the BLU RAY image is beautiful throughout - really crisp - you are aware almost all of the time that this is high-def and not a soft DVD image.
The extras are great fun too; a feature-length commentary by Stephen Belber and Steve Zahn, Gag Reels and Bloopers (very funny outtakes - mostly of the whole cast giggling and fluffing lines), several Deleted Scenes and a Trailer.
"Management" is not going to bolster up my gravity-bound man-titties or lessen the amount of hair growing out my nasal passages - but it has enriched my brain. At its core is a truly lovely premise - that love will out - and corny or not - that 'is' what many of us believe.
"Management" isn't a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but you can't help but think that the world is a nicer place, because this sweet little ode to hope is in it.
A nice little movie...