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Red state, blah state

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Management is easily one of the stupidest movies I've ever seen. I cannot recommend it to anyone, for any reason.

The film is the directing and solo-writing debut of Stephen Belber. He was the playwright behind Tape (adapted for film by Richard Linklater) and was an associate writer of the play The Laramie Project. In Management, I can't find a whiff of the talent he obviously possesses.

One reading of Management — a reading that at least provides a framework of stupidity for the greater stupidity — is that the film is a celebrity/clichéd-blue-state-elite fantasy about citizens of the fly-over states. The daydream: to be loved by the unworthy, to induce them to improve their lives on the basis of your beauty, and, so influenced, to metamorphose them into beings worthy of your love.

Sue (Jennifer Aniston) is an East Coast corporate-art saleswoman overnighting at the Kingman motel in Kingman, Arizona — a stop on I-40 in the beautiful wastes between Flagstaff and Barstow, California. The Baltimorean looks sharp in her business suit, which is enough to earn the fixation of Mike (Steve Zahn), the motel's night manager who may or may not be, er, mentally challenged.

Mike falls in instant infatuation with Sue. So, premise: A creepy motel guy who has no social training obsesses about his female guest (who is essentially all alone in the middle of nowhere) and compliments her derriere and so she sleeps with him. Because, under all that mouth breathing, there's a sweet guy.

Before she flees back to Maryland, Sue gripes about recycling. Mike is inspired and starts collecting plastic and glass. Then he flies to Baltimore to follow his muse, surprising her at her office. Inexplicably, Sue doesn't call security. Instead, she lets him tag along as she plays soccer and passes out Burger King vouchers to the homeless. Then Sue invites Mike back to her eco-friendly home. Then they share a bumper-car montage at an amusement park. Then she puts him on a bus back to Arizona.

Their bonds deepen as they interact across America. A boyfriend for Sue appears, in the form of an intense hipster, ex-punk rocker named Jango (Woody Harrelson), who owns an organic yogurt company. Mike's mom judges that Sue's emotionally annihilated, but underneath the blue-steel exterior is a good person.

Sue saves everyone but herself, Mike determines. He tells her, "You're so busy being selfless, you treat yourself like shit." Meanwhile, the Lynyrd Skynyrd posters on Mike's wall become banners for Greenpeace. Presumably, blue staters everywhere swoon.

The problem with all of this isn't that that it's deeply cynical and simplistic about Americans, that it's inane and pretentious with no grounding in reality, and that it amounts to little more than indie-cred posturing. No, the problem is that this dressed-up romantic comedy lacks humor and charm.

Management

Opening Friday, June 19th

Ridgeway Four

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