Mike is, as others tell him, "stuck." Working the graveyard shift at his parents' Arizona motel, Mike is adrift—that is, until the day Sue, an attractive stranger breezing through his small town on a business trip, checks in. Sue partakes in what she considers a fun, meaningless fling with the instantly smitten hotel clerk, who is awakened from his mundane existence. Sue returns home to Baltimore, unsuspecting that Mike will do just about anything to win her affection. Though flattered and inexplicably drawn to Mike, Sue repeatedly rejects his affections, which at times border on stalking.
Aniston and Zahn bring as much as they can to this story, and they are good opposite each other. They keep their characters real, even when the film's writer-director, Stephen Belber, throws in unnecessary shenanigans such as an over-the-top Woody Harrelson as Sue's implausible boyfriend, Jengo, a character not nearly fleshed out enough and part of what feels like an entirely different movie. Fred Ward and the always excellent character actor Margo Martindale, as Mike's parents, on the other hand, complement the grounded nature of Aniston's and Zahn's performances. James Liao, as Mike's newfound best friend, is a refreshing new screen face but, like Harrelson, overdoes it with shticks.
There's only one person to blame for these dueling tones, and that's Belber, who is making his feature directorial debut but who has ample experience as a writer (HBO's The Laramie Project, Rescue Me, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit). There are just too many awkward moments in Management that create poor pacing and stalled scenes. But the worst crime is that the film is lacking genuine humor. I didn't laugh once. For a film called Management, it needed to be better-managed at the top.
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Written and directed by: Stephen Belber
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Steve Zahn, Woody Harrelson, Fred Ward, Margo Martindale