"What about that girl?"
"Aw, that didn't work out. We weren't, you know, like meant for each other."
"I don't know, Mike. Things change...in life."
"What do you mean?"
"You're not the same guy you were."
When Steve Zahn first stumbled onto the Hollywood circuit, or rather, when I stumbled upon my first Steve Zahn movie (Saving Silverman), I never imagined him to become a solid leading man. He seemed perfectly suitable to play the dumb sidekick or the dopey and disposable love interest (Joy Ride and Riding in Cars with Boys, respectively). But then I saw Shattered Glass and, more recently, Sunshine Cleaning, and was pleasantly surprised to see respectable performances in both. This, combined with Jennifer Aniston's success in the indie circuit, compelled me to take a chance on the relatively unknown film Management.
What an oddly enjoyable film! Sue Claussen (Aniston) is an uptight traveling saleswoman who specializes in corporate art. Her travels take her to the Kingman Motor Inn in Arizona, where she meets Mike Cranshaw (Zahn), a childlike doofus who helps his parents run the motel. He is instantly intrigued by Sue and makes a couple of painfully awkward attempts to hit on her (one of which involves a hilarious scene where she "allows" him to touch her butt). On a lark, she indulges in a one night stand with the love struck Mike, never imagining that he will pursue her all the way back to Maryland. Mike is convinced that they can give it a go and invades Sue's life much like a stray dog that, while sweet and well-meaning, she feels she can't keep in her philanthropy-driven life. His cause is further complicated by the reappearance of her ex-boyfriend Jango (Harrelson), and ex-punk turned yogurt guru. What Sue and Mike don't count on is that their sporadic interactions with one another eventually force them both to look deep inside themselves and reevaluate who they are and what they ultimately want for their lives.
In an age of stalkers and disturbing headlines, this is a difficult storyline to navigate. Realistically, Mike's behavior is fodder for a grisly news segment, but somehow newbie director Stephen Belber makes it work. Aniston turns in a touching performance as a guarded woman who would rather take care of everyone but herself. The true star of the film, however, is Zahn, whose puppy dog eyes are reminiscent of John Cusack's Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything. He even manages a serenade of his own, replacing Peter Gabriel in a boombox with his own comical rendition of "Feel Like Makin' Love." You can't help but believe that Mike's intentions are pure of heart and driven by blind, stupid, and endearing love, the kind that girls used to fantasized about before the notion became absurd at its best and downright dangerous at its worst. Even so, Sue recognizes the genuine emotion hidden beneath Mike's rash romantic gestures. Management gently reminds us that in a crazy messed up world, sometimes the answer lies at the end of an irrational road where what's practical doesn't always add up but still manages to make sense when it comes to matters of the heart.