Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Cinema File #59: "Price Check" Review

I've always had a soft spot for Parker Posey, though looking at her filmography, I'm not exactly sure why. It's nothing against her, it's just that given my personal tastes, "indie darling" is a title that pretty much ensures I'm not going to see the majority of your movies, and that seems to be the case here. I don't know, maybe I just really liked those four episodes of Boston Legal more than I remembered. In any case, Posey's involvement in this film is what convinced me to pick up Price Check, a movie that I probably never would have watched if I didn't review movies regularly on a blog, and one that I could have easily never watched, and still been relatively happy with my life.

Price Check follows a former talent scout in the music industry forced into an office job building marketing strategies for a failing grocery store in order to pay the bills and support his new family. When his boss retires and is replaced by an obsessive "ballbuster," they form a working relationship that threatens both his job and his marriage. I can see the Office Space style ode to underachievement here, an attempt to revel in the malaise of giving up on your dreams and settling for the easy path, but the story feels a bit listless on this point and never really seems to know where it wants to go or why any of it matters, ultimately going nowhere slowly. There are a few incidental laughs here and there, but I have to think there was much more potential in this premise that feels wasted here.

Posey is as engaging as always, but she plays an antagonistic role you've seen her play more than a few times before. She seems to be the only one in the movie trying all that hard to make things work, but as we go deeper into her character, I get the sense that I'm supposed to care more, despite there being very little to her beyond the stock conniving ambition we see when she's first introduced. Her behavior alternates between too sitcom wacky and just plain unlikable, and not in the good way a villain is supposed to be unlikable, just sort of off putting. Eric Mabius from Ugly Better plays our hero, who shuffles through the movie with the same blank expression for 90 minutes, as bored as you would expect someone in his situation to be. He gives me no reason to care about anything that happens to him, which is kind of a microcosm of the whole movie.

The film was almost saved by the supporting cast, particularly the other people in the office who tend to get the few funny lines to be had. Being an office drone by day myself, I related to the various types of people there, even more so than something like Office Space which went for more broad comedy. You have the people just trying to get through the day without being noticed, the ones trying to halfheartedly embrace or subversively reject the arbitrary social system thrust upon, and those true believers who commit themselves regardless of whether what they're doing is actually important. If nothing else it felt real to me based on my own experiences, and probably led to me personally enjoying certain scenes more than others might. There are a few jokes early on that promise a more vulgar tone that almost certainly would have helped the movie immensely, but instead we get a rather bland office comedy, extremely light on the comedy.

And maybe it's just me, but even in a sparsely plotted indie movie, I expect a better resolution than the nothing of an ending in Price Check. It's almost silly to say I won't spoil it, because there's nothing to spoil. I'd say it comes out of nowhere, but it's too boring to be shocking or surprising, and serves only to highlight the low stakes and low energy of this movie that leaves me so unmotivated to praise any of its good qualities. It's not entirely without its charm, but nowhere near worth sitting through, no matter how much you may inexplicably enjoy Parker Posey despite not having seen the majority of movies she's in. Best to skip it if you come across it.

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