Writer/director Michael Walker’s film ‘Price Check’ is an office dramedy that will ring true in broad strokes to just about everyone who’s ever called a cubicle home at some point in their lives. The chatter, the meetings, even the little minutia, it all rings true to the office culture that the movie is trying to cultivate. When ‘Price Check’ is focusing on those elements, it has an authenticity that not every film set in the workplace can boast. When it’s focusing on the personal relationships of its characters however, things get a bit more rocky. That element is saved by a supremely enjoyable acting job from Parker Posey and an empathetic turn from Eric Mabius, but it still isn’t quite as satisfying as the other element of the flick. It’s not enough to keep me from recommending the movie, but it does keep it from being the type of clever indie that can break out of the pack at this time of the year. It’s mostly unique, but the main twist of the plot is something that you’ve seen many times before. On the heels of the workplace elements and Posey’s performance I think it’s worth seeing when it comes out this weekend, but it’s not without its flaws, that’s for sure.
For Peter Cozy (Mabius), his job is a dead end one, stuck in an office working for a supermarket chain’s management on Long Island. He’d kill to be back in the music industry working for a record label, but his wife Sara (Annie Parisse) and young son Henry (Finn Donoghue) come first. Money is tight and the collection agencies keep calling, so he needs this job in a big way. When his former boss (Matt Servitto) is replaced by a fiery new one in Susan Felders (Posey) straight from the main office, he assumes that things will only get worse. She immediately takes a liking to him though, and before he knows it he’s promoted to VP and his salary doubled. She’s borderline bi-polar, but overall good for the team and around him she seems to calm down a bit. He doesn’t know what to make of it, but when she takes him on a trip to Los Angeles he finds their relationship threatening to change. That, coupled with a potentially impossible goal set forth for him and his co-workers by Susan threatens to ruin Peter in more ways than one. About halfway through things get less interesting, but the film does manage to wrap up in a very unique way.
The praise for this movie mostly centers around the performance of Parker Posey. Effectively used here as an outsider and a spark plug, Posey shows why she’s an indie queen to many in the business. She’s a welcome burst of energy to the film, just like her character is to the office. She gets to play all of the highs and lows of a character here, leading to an always entertaining performance. The script may not always serve her incredibly well, but Posey rises above it. Eric Mabius is far from bad in the lead role, but he’s low-key almost to a fault here. The character’s arc isn’t amazingly original, so a more vibrant performance would have distracted more from that. I liked Mabius and Parker together, so I’m definitely not complaining about their chemistry. As for the supporting players, Josh Pais gets to ham it up a bit, Edward Hermann shows up as the head of the company, and we also have the likes of Victor Cruz, Cheyenne Jackson and comedian Amy Schumer to go along with the aforementioned Finn Donoghue, Annie Parisse, and Matt Servitto. It’s all about Parker Posey for me though.
Michael Walker is a filmmaker who seemingly didn’t have the confidence to fully commit to a workplace film and shoehorned in an ill-advised subplot that nearly takes his film down a peg. His direction is decent and without anything to really complain about, but his writing is at odds with itself. Parts of the script are really clever, especially when he’s detailing the goings on of the office and the quiet desperation of the employees. When he focuses on the secret that Peter and Susan grow to share however, things are real rocky. There’s also some tonal inconsistencies, but I understand where Walker was coming from there. None of my issues are big, but they add up and nearly kept me from giving the film my thumbs up.
In the end, ‘Price Check’ succeeds because at least half of the flick is pretty good and Parker Posey is excellent. My problems with it merely keep an entertaining film from becoming anything more than that. When it opens on Friday you’ll have the opportunity to see a quietly enjoyable movie, but one that definitely could have been better than it wound up being. Whether that’s good enough for you remains to be seen, but when in doubt, take my recommendation and decide for yourself…
–Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!