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IN SHORT: Ultimately, a very sweet dateflick with a real edge. [Rated R for Language. 93 minutes]
While most readers know Jennifer Aniston from her years of toil on an obscure television program called Friends, Ms. Aniston made a whole bunch of truly obscure independent films during her time off from the grind of a weekly sitcom (which is now a lot of time off since the series is finito). Most of those films wouldn't have had an icicle's chance in the Hot Place of getting made had her name not been attached. Some have been good. All have been worth renting. So, to quote one of the equally obscure songs from a British partnership called "Python, Monty Ltd." (seriously, that's their legal name!) . . . "Here Comes Another One!"
What we happen to like about Aniston's film work is that she lets all the other actors she works with shine. In the case of this years offering, Management, a sweet little nothing that caught us at the right place at the right time, that would be Steve Zahn, not an obscure name, whose character could be described as a verging on a teddy-bear-slash-stalker type until about two thirds of the way through the film. Then comes a marvelous transformation which takes this film out of the rental bin.
In other words, despite resting its plot on a guy who thinks Aniston has a great butt, which she doesn't since she has none, we loved the thing.
Zahn plays a 38 year old slacker called Mike who runs the night shift at his parent's Arizona based motel. Parents Jerry and Trish (Fred Ward and Margo Martindale) have lived their dream, but it isn't one that Mike shares. Now, mom is dying of some never-mentioned disease. Dad is stoic and Mike is entranced by the saleswoman who has checked into the motel for a two night stay. Her name is Sue Claussen (Aniston). She is a traveling salesman for "Corporate Bliss," a company that sells the kind of oil paintings found on the walls of motels that line American highways, coast to coast. Strangely enough, she's doing two days hard labor selling to every other motel in town but the one she is staying at! Never mind that, there's chemistry to develop!
Day one: Mike goes rummaging through the back office and finds a bottle of wine, unopened since it was left as a Christmas present the year before. That night he awkwardly presents it to Sue as a "gift of Management." It is an attempt on Mike's part to break the proverbial ice (and the wine is awful).
Night two, knowing that Sue is leaving the next day, Mike springs for a bottle of champagne and leaves his heart on the table. In simple English he tells her she's cute and asks to touch her butt. Any other movie, this would have crossed the harassment line if Zahn's approach weren't so like that of a twelve year old's -- any hetero male older than twelve would already know that Aniston has no butt to speak of. [translation: her beauty is transcendent... or... sometimes personality is a good thing, except that at this point in the film Aniston's character hasn't demonstrated much in the way of an attractive personality. That's probably due to man trouble, but we haven't gotten there yet.]
Oh. Yeah. Mike gets his wish. Whether or not you get the joke that follows will depend on how PC insistent you are. We, personally, wouldn't have made so crude an approach back in the day. We also found the scene to be very funny. When all is said and done, nothing happens.
What happens the next morning, in the laundry room, is a whole 'nother thing. From that point on, Mike knows his destiny. Except that his destiny lies two thousand miles to the east, give or take, in Baltimore. And she's got a super-rich, punk rock musician boyfriend called Jango (Woody Harrelson) who lives three thousand miles to her west, in Aberdeen, Washington. Jango did OK as a musician but when he invested his music money in a yogurt business, he found himself sitting on top of a health food empire.
two... three... four...
Seriously. Yogurt is this year's "plastics."
Poor Mike will find himself crisscrossing the country for all sorts of reasons, happy and sad, in pursuit of Love. There will be death. There will be parachuting. There will be Chinese food. There will be serious talk while a friendship develops where love cannot. And then . . .
Oh come on, people, do we have to tell you everything??? Management is a very lightweight dateflick that, like a lot of Aniston's movie work, is much better suited to home screens. But if you have a date and forgot to preorder tickets to this week's monster summer release, well, here you go!
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Management, he would have paid . . .
Had we seen it on any other day of the week it probably would've gotten the standard $3 "rent it" rating. Aniston's adorable and Zahn delivers a very subtle performance, better than anything he's done before. He's just been OK before. This is a great improvement.
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