Steve Zahn is an odd dude.
The 41-year-old Minnesota native has been in more than three-dozen movies since his breakthrough in Reality Bites 15 years ago. Much of the work has been as the goofy sidekick in films as diverse as SubUrbia, That Thing You Do, Out of Sight and Rescue Dawn. Occasionally he’s been given larger roles — in Saving Silverman, Joy Ride and Happy, Texas, to name a few — nearly all of which are informed by his oddball presence. That’s not necessarily a good thing, though I admit his perpetually stoned Glen in Out of Sight is close to genius.
Zahn again brings his doofus routine to Management, a spare, character-driven piece that suffers from a serious case of tonal imbalance. Writer/director Stephen Belber’s off-kilter comedy feels uncommonly slight, which probably shouldn’t be a surprise — it’s based on his own one-act play.
Zahn is Mike, a sweet-natured but socially stunted night manager at his parents’ motel in suburban Arizona. Things change when he eyes Sue (Jennifer Aniston), a tightly wound traveling saleswoman who’s stunted in her own way. The two lost souls unexpectedly bond via a series of awkward encounters — all which stretch believability — culminating in a round of sex in the motel’s laundry room. And that’s just the beginning of Management’s far-fetched plot turns.
While Belber has created like-minded material before — he wrote Richard Linklater’s far more effective Tape — this time out he doesn’t craft characters compelling enough to transcend the narrative’s leaps in logic. Worse, one isn’t quite sure how to register Zahn’s creepy, puppy-dog emoting and Aniston’s opaque take on a woman who seems more suited for an actress who could better bring out the film’s potential for pathos. Grade: C
Opens June 19. Check out theaters and show times, see the film's trailer and find nearby bars and restaurants here.