Director: Stephen Belber
Screenwriter: Stephen Belber
Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Steve Zahn, Woody Harrelson, Margo Martindale, James Liao
Release Date: 2009-08-12
Your assignment: Write a believable film which culminates in Steve Zahn (the goofy guy from Saving Silverman who isn’t Jack Black or Jason Biggs) and Jennifer Aniston hooking up, for real, like with tongue kissing and everything. If you give up, don’t feel bad. Management’s writer-director Stephen Belber apparently did, too.
The film begins with a stacked deck: Zahn is Mike, the Geo-driving night manager at his parents’ motor lodge in godforsaken Kingman, Arizona, where Sue (Aniston), a peddler of corporate art, stays on a business trip. Mike, who’s apparently never seen a woman who hasn’t given birth to him, proceeds to hit on Sue as awkwardly as you’d imagine. These initial scenes between Mike and Sue, which fail so miserably Sue actually points out that Mike has nothing to say to a woman like her and wouldn’t know what to do if he actually succeeded, are squirm-inducingly true to life, missing only their painfully obvious conclusion.
But a studio comedy featuring the only Friend anyone gives a shit about anymore isn’t about to end 20 minutes in with a guy masturbating to a waterpark brochure while weeping uncontrollably, so Mike succeeds enough to (barely) keep the film going. Sue, in a moment of pure pity, lets him feel her ass, and later, when she can’t find anything good on TV, lets him strip down (Zahn, it should be noted, is surprisingly cut) and hump her while she lays fully clothed on the laundry-room folding table.
Shockingly, this turns out to be a decision Sue will regret, when Mike spends his life savings to follow her home to Maryland. Twice. On his second trip, financed by pawning his recently deceased mother’s necklace, Mike learns that Sue has moved to Aberdeen, Washington, to live with her ex-boyfriend, punker turned attack-dog-breeding yogurt mogul, Jango (Harrelson).
After he jumps cross-country in a single cut, Mike, homeless in Aberdeen, finds himself retracing the footsteps of young Kurt Cobain, until Mike, like the musician, finds redemption through the age-old art of some random Chinese guy solving all his problems for him. Al (Liao), a friendly young waiter, notices Mike reading the classifieds and offers him a job. Then, upon learning that Mike has nowhere to clean up, Al offers Mike a change of clothes and bed in the basement of the restaurant, which happens to be owned by Al’s parents.
From that point Management becomes a 1980s party-comedy film for about half an hour, pitting busboys Mike and Al against Jango, an intimidating semi-douche who lives in a mansion patrolled by packs of Rottweilers, in a sequence that could’ve come straight from Meatballs 9. This actually happens, and it’s by far the best part of the movie
Rebuffed again, Mike heads to a Buddhist monastery, which is basically the Hollywood equivalent of Belber crying “uncle.” There’s no way to make Mike and Sue get together believably, but Samuel Goldwyn Films already set up all the movie-making equipment and put down a nonrefundable deposit on a caterer, so Belber’s got no choice but to burn screen time until the magic 90-minute mark, when he can make his two stars kiss and roll the credits. It’s what the kids these days call “epic fail,” but you have to admit you couldn’t have done any better.