Stalking: The Movie
I’m sure it happens in real life, that dorky guys who don’t know how to behave around women and do weird and inappropriate things to catch their attention and keep doing weird and inappropriate things to continue to demand their attention even after they’ve been asked not to do sometimes end up with the nice, pretty, ordinary girls they’ve been stalking. But not as often the regular and inevitable thing that a movie like Management would have us believe. The fact that movies like Management continue to get made says to me that this is one male fantasy that real life is not getting satisfied on any regular basis.
There’s nothing wrong with fantasy. Movies are fantasies. But I’m so tired of male fantasies constantly being catered to while female fantasies are all but ignored. Now, I try not to condemn a single film because it happens to exist in a genre that is already overcrowded, if that film is otherwise a good enough movie in itself. So I’m not coming down hard on Management just because it has the dumb luck to be the 1,754th movie by men about overgrown boys stalking hapless women that I’ve seen, instead of the first or second. I’m coming down hard on Management because it can’t even be bothered to consider its concept from the perspective of the female protagonist it would like us to like.
Look: Jennifer Aniston’s corporate sales rep would never, ever fuck the creepy motel manager who harasses her during a one-night stay in his Arizona motel. Even if he is adorable Steve Zahn. Cuz he’s not “adorable Steve Zahn” to her: he’s the weird guy from the front desk who inappropriately brings a bottle of cheap, undrinkable champagne to her room in the hopes that she will actually believe that this is a courtesy the establishment extends to all its guests. And even though she doesn’t believe him, not one bit, and is not charmed by him, not one bit, for some reason that exists only inside the head of writer-director Stephen Belber and in the masturbatory whimsies of guys like Zahn’s Mike, she gives him a quick fuck in the motel laundry room the next morning, as she’s about to check out.
Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m the hopeless romantic in this scenario. But, you know, I think most women know that if you’re trying to get rid of a loser like Mike, you don’t fuck him. Because that’ll be the only intimate contact with another human being he’s had in years, if ever, and now you’ll never get rid of him.
And Aniston’s Sue is surprised when Mike shows up at her place of work in Maryland a few days later in pursuit of her? Pul-leeze.
Now, frankly, given the preposterousness of the scenario, the total lack of a need for yet another movie about stalking as romance, and my tiredness with seeing male fantasies about love and sex indulged while women’s realities (never mind fantasies!) about love and sex are ignored, I found Management surprisingly sweet. It pains me to say this, because, well, it’s like fucking an annoying loser in the hopes that he’ll leave you alone after that. I don’t want to encourage any more movies like this one to be made. But Management really should be ickier than it is.
I credit Steve Zahn (Sunshine Cleaning, The Great Buck Howard) for that: he has an irresistible charm as a screen presence that, if it doesn’t exactly make Mike himself charming, does make him real, and not the caricature of the loser he might have been. (A smart subplot about his relationship with his parents, played by the indispensable Margo Martindale [Stop-Loss, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story] and Fred Ward [Sweet Home Alabama, Enough], helps.) In the long run — and with the caveat that we have more information that Sue does about Mike — it’s not impossible to see that Sue might eventually fall for him.
But Management ignores too much of who and what Sue is to let us buy it. Aniston (Marley & Me, The Break-Up) has a thankless, and probably impossible job here: to humanize a woman who appears to have no aspirations, no dreams, no goals, no life of her own, as Belber has created her. Belber doesn’t even bother to wonder about, I dunno, the self-esteem of a woman who would encourage a stalker and accept his advances.
That’s what pisses me off about Management: all that matters about the woman is that she is an object of desire. She doesn’t have to be a person of her own. It doesn’t matter what she wants, merely that she is wanted.