Saturday, January 12, 2013

Price Check

PRICE CHECK              B                  
USA  (92 mi)  2012  d:  Michael Walker

First and foremost in this movie, even better than the movie itself is the music by Dean and Britta and their former band, Luna, which by itself is worth the price of admission, where their still relatively unknown exposure could use a jump start from this small indie film.  Links to available YouTube music videos of songs used in the film will be listed after the review.  This is a wildly uneven but comically satiric, capitalistic take on the American Dream gone wrong film, as personified by Pete Cozy (Eric Mabius), a normal and typically easy going guy, living from paycheck to paycheck in the New York suburbs of Long Island, not particularly happy in his job, but he knows and likes the people, even if none of them are really his friends.  Working in the marketing division for a string of supermarket chains, this was never his career choice, rather the kind of job he settled for in order to pay the bills, as his real joy is spending time with his lovely wife Sarah (Annie Parisse) and infant son.  When his longtime boss retires, someone from corporate headquarters is being brought in with a reputation for being a “real ball-buster.” The new boss’s arrival is, of course, preceded by a moment of brilliance from Amy Schumer as Lila, seen as she walks into the building in the morning when she deadpans “I feel like shit, being human sucks. I hope someone brought donuts.”  This defines the prevailing blasé office attitude where casual nonchalance takes precedent over actual work.  Of course, who’s brought in to shake things up and get these slackers in line?  Susan Felders, rising corporate star, played by none other than Parker Posey, introduced here:  Price Check Movie (Parker Posey & Eric Mabius) - YouTube (1:35).  Posey is energy in a bottle, given a starring role written for her by the writer/director, where she channels the spoiled and manic nature of her previous role in The House of Yes (1997), where she is literally so narcissistic that she always has to have her way, steamrolling over others to make sure she gets it.  Her ruthlessly ambitious personality is both lovably adoring, the way Posey plays it, yet also slightly terrifying, like she’s an unleashed monster in the room.  

Posey’s high strung character represents the boss from Hell, the Type-A personality that has you immediately sending out resumé’s for another job, but then she pats you on the back, calls you by your first name, and starts throwing out impossible sales projections that need to be met by next week, accompanied by the shouting of hurrah, clapping her hands, yelling let’s get to work, and deep down, you know she really means it.  Immediately you know your life is not the same anymore, as it’s owned by the company you work for.  But Pete doesn’t see it that way initially, as he’s a decent and earnest guy, responsible and hard-working, feeling it’s time to step up to the plate and try some of these new ideas, though doubling his salary and making him a company Vice-President doesn’t hurt in buying his allegiance.  Sarah’s a little upset that he’s bringing work home with him, that he never has time for his family anymore, but she’s fine with it as she’s finally able to pay off the credit card debt.  Hell, she’s even got her eye on a new Volvo to replace that stinker in the driveway.  Posey always works best with a straight guy, and Pete couldn’t be more straight and narrow, where she has him eating out of the palm of her hand, supporting her every move, reduced to being a corporate lackey, yet actually excited about implementing these newfangled business ideas.  Susan needs a guy like Pete to do all the work, as we never see her do any of it, instead she’s the sleight-of-hand, deviously motivating “bullshit” overseer that expects everyone else to pull their weight, and hers as well.  She, of course, takes home the corporate paycheck, while everyone else earns the satisfaction of a job well done, and maybe, in good times, a small Christmas bonus. 

In the 40’s and 50’s, Posey would be played by Judy Holliday, where her unbridled enthusiasm would liven up stale business practices, and she’d catch the ear of a corporate mogul who’d find her ideas refreshing and exactly what was needed to prevent the company from being driven to corruption and ruin by the predictable financial experts who were little more than yes men.  Half a century later, the company plays with sharks in the water who bully and terrify the workers into becoming yes men, where in reality it’s a cutthroat business where only the strong survive and any misstep only gives them grounds to cut you loose.  The meat of the narrative hardly feels like a comedy, and the way Susan manipulates Pete, the financial numbers, and her entire corporate world is an artificially dizzying process that is oftentimes uncomfortable to watch, as it’s saturated in greed and self-centeredness.  Susan not only controls Pete’s working life, but she takes over his personal life as well, as he’s forced to spend every waking minute with her.  Again, his wife Sarah suspects something’s up, but she’s willing to overlook it because of all the money rolling in.  What’s truly unique is the use of the Dean and Britta music playing quietly underneath, where Susan and Pete actually catch them in a live act, which is nothing short of brilliant, but Susan’s only there to be seen with a hip crowd, where she still wants to be the center of attention, barely even conscious that a musical group is onstage, as it’s all about her.  Like a Faustian bargain, straight arrow Pete actually falls for this, as he envisions seeing himself up the corporate ladder somewhere on easy street.  And it all could have happened, only it doesn’t, as instead of his trusted business ally, Susan in real life is a heartless backstabber, cutting him loose without a second thought, undermining his own ambition with a little of her own, where nowadays it’s considered sound business practice to eliminate the competition.  The capitalistic ruthlessness of the film is a bit frightening, dressed up in what appears to be light comedy, even the so-called happy ending where Pete lands on his feet, but it’s a savagely downbeat and dark tone. 

Musical Soundtrack
“Someone Else” The Working Title                   Someone Else - The Working Title  (3:31)
“Black Postcards” Luna        Luna - Black Postcards (Tell Me Do You Miss Me ...  (9:54)
“When There is No Crowd” White Fence  White Fence - When There is No Crowd  (5:37)
“Eyes In My Smoke” Dean and Britta               Dean & Britta : Eyes in My Smoke (4:35)
“Malibu Love Nest” Luna                                 Dean and Britta Malibu Love Nest  (4:31)
“We Dress Ourselves” Princess Katie and Racer Steve Princess Katie & Racer Steve We Dress Ourselves Rock Songs Music For Kids  (3:11)
“Harvest Moon” Pepper Rabbit           Pepper Rabbit, 'Harvest Moon' @ Bootleg Theater, 1.19.10 (4:06)
“Mermaid Eyes” Luna                                       Luna - Mermaid Eyes (3:33)
“After the Moment” Craft Spells                       Craft Spells - After The Moment  (4:01)
“Radio” My Hero                                    My Hero Official "Radio" Music Video (3:28)
“Well Well Well Well” The Satin Peaches   The Satin Peaches - Well Well Well Well  (3:33)
 “I Found It Not So” Dean and Britta                Dean & Bretta - I Found it Not So  (5:30)
“Show You Mine” Alyx                                    Alyx - Show You Mine  (2:50)
“Ramona” Craft Spells                                      Craft Spells - Ramona  (3:16)
“Night Nurse” Dean and Britta             nightnurse - dean wareham britta phillips (3:54)
“Knives From Bavaria” Dean and Britta            KNIVES FROM BAVARIA  (2:55), also here:  Dean and Britta "Knives from Bavaria" Live @ The Warhol in Pittsburgh JANE HOLZER  (4:43) 
“Ticking is The Bomb” Luna
“Big Toe” Xray Eyeballs                                   Xray Eyeballs - Big Toe (2:58)
“We Are the Dinosaurs” Laurie Berkner            The Laurie Berkner Band - We Are The Dinosaurs (2:28)
“All I Ask” Theodore                                        Theodore-All I ask (4:43)
 “All Things Merry” Britta Phillips
“The Day Summer Fell” The Sand Pebbles        Sand Pebbles The Day Summer Fell (4:05)

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