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“Change in ‘Management’”

 

Two darling co-stars actually disrupt the delicate tale of lonely strangers desperate for connection in the minor comedy “Management.” A homely girl and an awkward boyish actor should have been cast, not superstar Jennifer Aniston and blue eyed cutie Steve Zahn.

 

Mike (Zahn) has suffered a dullard’s life working at his parents’ motel on the outskirts of Phoenix.  He cares for his dying mother (Margo Martindale), plus changes the laundry and refills the concession stand for his emotionally checked-out father (Fred Ward).  One morning, Sue, a sexy customer (Jennifer Aniston), sparks his interest.  Mike courts her with champagne and wine each night to her chagrin, but out of boredom, she eventually mounts him in the laundry room.

 

Impetuous, Mike flies out to Baltimore to woo Sue at her office and overwhelms her.  The girl never had time in the past for romance and had preferred submerging herself in work and philanthropy.  Though she allows him to take her out for the day and sleep on her floor, she forces him to return to Phoenix the next day. However, something about him compels her to return to the motel a few weeks later.

 

There’s a fine line between Prince Charming and Norman Bates, and there are moments where the audience wonders just how fragile our clerk’s mentality true is.  He stalks a girl he hardly knows across country, stares at her in her sleep, and refuses to take no for an answer.  Though he turns out to be not dangerous, some of his actions are a bit suspect.  The movie hedges its bets by casting loveable Zahn in the role, which is a bit of a cheat.  A braver director would have cast a geek like Jay Baruchel or Jonah Hill from “Knocked Up.” It would have distanced the audience from the character’s behavior and made the director work harder to make them warm to Mike.

 

Even with a bad dye-job, glamorous Aniston could never be as desperate in love as her Sue would be to walk into this Bates Motel so calmly and play around with this potential sycophant. Not since Michelle Pfeiffer played a washed out waitress in “Frankie and Johnny” has someone been so miscast for being TOO adorable.  Her performance conveys longing and a gentile sense of humor, making it a shame that only her movie star persona ruins the role.  She has the chops to pull off the characterization.

 

The script has a quirky sense of humor and features several clever sequences, including a serenade on a Chinese bicycle taxi, but meanders as the characters repeat the same mistakes.  How many times can someone show up unannounced at a doorstep before the police are alerted? 

 

Aniston has varied her career with big showcases (“Along Came Polly”) and quirky independents (“The Good Girl”), but here as Executive Producer, she should have realized this film was too small for her stature. She would have been more apt to cast a newcomer and worked behind the scenes. Grade: B-

 

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