Mike (Steve Zahn) is the night manager at a hole in the wall motel in the Arizona desert, which is owned and run by his parents (Margo Martindale and Fred Ward). When Sue (Jennifer Aniston) a plain-looking businesswoman checks into the hotel, Mike is smitten. He then follows (or stalks) Sue all over the country in an aim to win her heart. In a last ditch effort, he follows her to Aberdeen, Washington, where she has moved in with her ex-boyfriend, ex-punk and yogurt magnate Jango (Woody Harrelson). Recruiting the help of his new best friend Al (James Hiroyuki Lao), Mike must find a way to get Sue away from him, but can he do it?
This is a film that was shown at the 2008 Toronto Film Festival but wasn't released in the US until May 2009 and then only in limited release, so it wouldn't surprise me if you've never heard of this film before. I actually managed to see it in the theater and had to drive longer than I normally would to do so.
For me, the enjoyment of this movie comes because it rings true all of the crap a guy will do to get a woman's attention that he likes, more often than not making a fool out of himself, or a bigger fool than he already is. Mike is just such a guy, played to razor sharp perfection by Steve Zahn. Creepy? Yes, but in a harmless way.
Sue is at first creeped out by Mike's actions but plays along, silently impressed by his persistence in his pursuit of her and probably a bit flattered too. Aniston takes a while to warm up to her character and her performance seems a bit stiff in the beginning. As the movie goes on she gets into her role and finds the right balance.
I don't care if Woody Harrelson's role has become typical for him. The fact is he's very good at filling these quirky characters and making them funny. My favorite line of his refers to a rooster. Perfect Woody Harrelson look and delivery.
First time director Stephen Belber also wrote the screenplay and was able to effectively relate what he wanted from his actors, as evidenced by their comments in an interview on amazon.com.
Of course, I had to buy the DVD when it came out in September. It has audio commentary by the director and Steve Zahn plus outtakes and some deleted scenes. As always, I wish there were more extras. I'm always a fan of cast and crew interviews.
You may or may not like this film, depending on your view of quirky, independent romantic comedies. I, for one, think it is a very funny movie with a satisfying story.
***½ out of *****
Management (2008, R, 93 minutes) starring Jennifer Aniston, Steve Zahn, Woody Harrelson, James Hiroyuki Lao, Fred Ward and Margo Martindale. The film was written and directed by Stephen Belber.