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“If I let you touch my ass…will you consider this to have been a success?”
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Country: United States
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Steve Zahn, Woody Harrelson, Fred Ward, Margo Martindale, Tzi Ma
Director: Stephen Belber
Run time: 94 minutes
DVD distributor: Alliance Films
The first thing I thought when looking at the DVD box of Management, out September 29th from Alliance Films, was “oh. Jennifer Aniston.” Because that is an appropriate reaction to Jennifer Aniston of late. Oh. Jennifer Aniston in a romantic comedy? Ugghhhh…and Management IS Jennifer Aniston in a romantic comedy. But it isn’t The Break-Up, and it isn’t The Good Girl, and it isn’t a giant pile of crap.
In fact, it’s a movie I have long hoped Jennifer Aniston would make. Sort of. I have always wanted her to do something, anything, other than play the love interest to some douchebag in some crappy chick flick. To do something interesting. Now, in Management she still plays the love interest to some douchebag (Steve Zahn). But this movie is much different in that it is interesting. In fact, very interesting. That’s not to say it’s great. In fact, it’s only a little bit good. But I sure wanted to watch right to the end.
Aniston plays Sue, an art dealer of sorts who sells crappy paintings to crappy motels. I think. It doesn’t really matter. She travels for work, and checks in at a motel run by Jerry and Trish Cranshaw (Fred Ward and Margo Martindale). Their son Mike (Steve Zahn) is instantly infatuated with Sue, because she’s played by Jennifer Aniston, and therefore looks like Jennifer Aniston, and therefore has a great ass. And other assets.
He begins to approach her in a very awkward way, which I think is supposed to be charming on some level. I don’t think the movie, or Zahn, quite manage to achieve charm in these scenes. Rather, with the motel setting and Zahn’s obvious lack of social graces and his discomfort with himself are a little more reminiscent of Norman Bates. This means the movie kicks off with a decidedly creepy vibe, and when Zahn and Aniston actually have sex, it’s all the more creepy. Like watching Rachel from Friends have sex with a young Son of Sam.
After the inexplicable one-night stand, Aniston leaves. As oone might expect from such a creepy and strange character, Zahn decides to stalk her, and pools all his money to buy a plane ticket to Maryland, where he shows up at her office, bags in hand. He no longer seems creepy, just desperate and sad. This is the point where the movie really starts to work, as Aniston actually does something different for a change. She is damaged too, and has some serious social awkwardness herself.
What that means here, is that she is not playing Rachel from Friends. In fact, this is the first movie ever where I have seen Aniston not playing Rachel from Friends. And that includes Office Space. Maybe, just maybe, she is not a one-note actor after all. I look forward to more strange works of this nature from her. And for the rest of the movie, she is the one carrying the load.
Zahn remains love-struck and weird and vaguely creepy but mostly desperate and sad and inept. Aniston, on the other hand, undergoes some serious inner turmoil as she begins to thing that maybe she actually likes this creepy stalker weirdo guy. There are some good moments as he deconstructs her psyche for her and she tries to come to terms with her own problems and foibles.
Then Woody Harrelson shows up and shoots Steve Zahn in the neck.
The movie goes off the rails here for a while, but there are some big laughs to be derived from Harrelson’s appearance. Then, as it winds down, it becomes better again, as everyone has to face their demons and fears and so forth. It manages to end on a sickly sweet note without being sickly sweet. Another big jump in the career of Jennifer Aniston. It’s not a perfect movie, but Management is strange enough and gutsy enough to be very, very interesting.