Blu-ray Review HTF Blu-ray Review: MANAGEMENT

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Michael Reuben, Oct 8, 2009.

  1. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

    Feb 12, 1998
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    Management (Blu-ray)

    Studio: Image Entertainment
    Rated: R
    Film Length: 93 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
    HD Encoding: 1080p
    HD Codec: AVC
    Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1
    Subtitles: English SDH; Spanish
    MSRP: $34.98
    Disc Format: 1 25 GB
    Package: Keepcase
    Theatrical Release Date: May 15, 2009
    Blu-ray Release Date: Sept. 29, 2009


    A lot of Jennifer Aniston films tank at the box office because they’re formula romantic comedies like Love Happens. Every so often she’ll try something different like The Good Girl or Friends with Money, films notable for having scripts by writers with distinctive voices (Mike White and Nicole Holofcener, respectively). Those are the films where you get to see the actress behind the celebrity. Management, a first-time feature by playwright Stephen Belber, is another such film, but it’s the kind that exposes the hypocrisy of most film critics. They bitch about stereotypical plots and cardboard characters, but give them something they can’t sum up neatly in a review, and they’ll bitch about that too.

    The Feature:

    The central character of Management is Mike (Steve Zahn), an overgrown man-child who helps run the Kingman, Arizona motel owned by his parents, Trish and Jerry (Fred Ward and the always extraordinary Margo Martindale). One day, a corporate traveler named Sue (Aniston) stops at the motel, and Mike is smitten. He awkwardly brings a bottle of cheap wine to her room, compliments of “management”, and although Sue spots the pass immediately, she doesn’t shut him down. By the time Sue checks out, she and Mike have had an increasingly bizarre series of encounters.

    Sue has a job that could only exist in the modern world: She buys generic art for corporate venues. Her office is in Baltimore, and the last thing she expects is to find Mike on her doorstep. But one day there he is, with no return ticket, certain that there is a connection between them. As nicely as she can, Sue lets Mike sample her urban professional-woman life long enough to see that there’s no place in it for him. Then she sends him packing, and when Sue returns to Kingman on another business trip, she reaffirms to Mike that there’s nothing between them.

    But Sue isn’t as settled in her life as she appears to be. Following family events that leave him adrift in the world, Mike returns to Baltimore only to discover that Sue has disappeared. All Mike can learn is that she’s reunited with her old boyfriend and moved back west.

    The latter half of Management goes to surprising places as Mike embarks on a search for the one that got away. He ends up working in a Chinese restaurant in Seattle, with a new best friend named Al (James Liao). Together they find Sue living in splendor with Jango, a former rocker and now the self-styled “Yogurt King” of Seattle. Jango is played by Woody Harrelson in a great over-the-top performance that combines elements of Owen Wilson’s New Age ex-boyfriend from Meet the Parents with the testosterone-fueled lunatic played by Bradley Cooper in Wedding Crashers – seasoned with a healthy dose of Mickey Knox (Natural Born Killers, of course). It is this formidable competition that Mike will have to challenge if he wants to win Sue back.

    Or is that really what Sue wants? Because Management is told from Mike’s point of view, we don’t come to understand Sue any faster than Mike does. One of the challenges of watching Management is that Aniston does something I can’t remember seeing her ever do before – she uses her considerable surface charm to hide all the insecurity that Sue has been concealing from the world for her entire life. It’s the very thing that has prevented her from standing on her own until just before she meets Mike. What Mike first sees and what Sue really is are two different things. That’s the key to what develops between them, and Aniston’s portrayal of that tension is some of her finest work.

    Meanwhile, Zahn, who recently gave a fine, low-key performance as an average guy in Sunshine Cleaning, here creates a sympathetic portrait of arrested development who knows what he is and truly wants to be something more. Many critics referred to Mike as a “stalker”, even though he clearly presents no danger and even though Sue doesn’t treat him as one. In fact, Sue’s unexpected reaction to Mike when he first starts showing up at her door is a good test. If it doesn’t make you curious about what’s going on in her head, this film isn’t for you. Switch it off and move on.


    Whatever one’s reaction to the film, there is nothing to fault in its representation on Blu-ray. Black levels, detail and color rendition are all excellent, and this is nowhere more evident than in the landscape surrounding Mike’s home town of Kingman (the film was shot in Portland, Oregon). Belber was clearly going for a realistic look, and Aniston gamely allowed herself to be made up like an ordinary working woman instead of a Hollywood star (not that Aniston could ever really look ordinary). The camera picks up her true age, and the Blu-ray reproduces those details.


    The DTS lossless track captures the voices cleanly and clearly, and I was actually surprised when I learned from the commentary that some of the dialogue was re-recorded, because it doesn’t sound like it. Large stretches of the film are dialogue-only, but there are subtle ambient sounds if you’re listening for them, and a well-recorded musical score that’s sparingly used, along with some strategically chosen pop songs.

    Special Features:

    Commentary by Steve Zahn and director Stephen Belber. Although too much of their discussion is geared to the action on screen, Belber and Zahn do reveal a fair amount about the shoot and drop some interesting facts about the history of the production. Among other things, they reveal that the film began as a two-person play; that actor James Liao was cast because Belber remembered him from a playreading five years earlier; and that Harrelson passed on the script but reconsidered at Aniston’s urging after a major rewrite. Halfway through the commentary, the participants are joined by editor Kate Sanford, who helps them remember various details and notes that nearly all of the film went through substantial editorial changes from the first cut.

    Deleted Scenes (15:18). There are eight scenes, and all of them belong on the cutting room floor. If nothing else, they demonstrate how difficult it is to maintain the tone of a piece like Management. You’re always in danger of going too far. Although there is no separate commentary, many of these scenes are discussed during the feature commentary.

    Gag Reel (12:41). Not the funniest I’ve seen, especially considering who’s in the movie. It was obviously compiled for the crew and contains a big “thank you” at the end.

    Trailers. The film’s trailer is included. Also, at startup the disc plays trailers for The Other Man and Adam Resurrected. These can be skipped with the chapter forward button, and the trailers for the three films are separately available under Special Features.

    In Conclusion:

    I sincerely hope Jennifer Aniston keeps trying these oddball characters in well-written independent films like Management, critics and box office be damned. Actresses of her calibre are too rare to be wasted on Hollywood dreck.

    Equipment used for this review:

    Panasonic BDP-BD50 Blu-ray player (DTS-HD MA decoded internally and output as analog)
    Samsung HL-T7288W DLP display (connected via HDMI)
    Lexicon MC-8 connected via 5.1 passthrough
    Sunfire Cinema Grand amplifier
    Monitor Audio floor-standing fronts and MA FX-2 rears
    Boston Accoustics VR-MC center
    SVS SB12-Plus sub

  2. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?

    Dec 1, 1999
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    Gulf Coast
    Real Name:
    Tony D.
    I liked it.
    These two people are both a little off and that's why they're interesting.
    I love the end too.

    good movie.

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