Jennifer Aniston & Steve Zahn in Management
Stephen Belber can write, and in more than one medium.
He adapted his play "Tape" in 2001 into an intriguing and well-plotted feature-length indie film, and his TV credits are plentiful.
"Management," however, is padding disguised as a feature-length screenplay, adapted from Belber's one-act, which was laid out as a series of trysts between a tightly controlled lost soul who sells corporate motel-room art, played by Jennifer Aniston, and the foggy-headed manager (Steve Zahn) of a Kingman, Ariz., roadside motel owned by his folks.
Compliments of "the management," Mike delivers a bottle of wine to Sue's room (she's traveling on business), and after a few forced pleasantries she allows him to palm one of her buttocks for a few seconds. This plays as oddly as it sounds. Then they have sex in the laundry room, and Sue returns to her old life in Baltimore -- dull work enriched by volunteerism and soccer -- forcing Mike to begin a cross-country campaign to stalk her or to woo her, depending on your outlook.
The theater and the movies have long thrived on stories that provoke the question: Would that really happen?
The more pressing question: Is it interesting to watch the improbabilities unfold? Here, well, a little. Nonetheless the setup of "Management" feels like relational science fiction.
The cast is game: Woody Harrelson plays Sue's ex, a one-time punker turned yogurt magnate.
Zahn and Harrelson have similar crazy-man glints in their eyes, and it's too bad the material doesn't light more of a fire around them.
Aniston has yet to find an ideal screen role, different enough from "Friends" to be a surprise, close enough to her strengths to make casting sense.
Her truest work onscreen came in another low-budget indie, "The Good Girl."
There Aniston seemed to do very little visible acting, yet she created a character of subtle pathos, telling and specific even when the script wandered.
"Management," by contrast, is lighter-toned. But it's a little off, all the way through.
"Management" Movie Trailer
Management MPAA rating: R (for language).
Running time: 1:33.
Jennifer Aniston (Sue Claussen); Steve Zahn (Mike Cranshaw); Woody Harrelson (Jango); Fred Ward (Jerry); Margo Martindale (Trish); James Liao (Al).
Directed by Stephen Belber;
Written by Belber, based on his one-act play;
Produced by Sidney Kimmel, Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen.
A Samuel Goldwyn Films release.
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