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Management is a romantic comedy that chronicles a chance meeting between Mike Cranshaw (Steve Zahn) and Sue Claussen (Jennifer Aniston). When Sue checks into the roadside motel owned by Mike's parents in Arizona, what starts with a bottle of wine "compliments of management" soon evolves into a multi-layered, cross-country journey of two people looking for a sense of purpose. Mike, an aimless dreamer, bets it all on a trip to Sue's workplace in Maryland—only to find that she has no place for him in her carefully ordered life. Buttoned down and obsessed with making a difference in the world, Sue goes back to her yogurt mogul ex-boyfriend Jango (Woody Harrelson), who promises her a chance to head his charity operations. But having found something worth fighting for, Mike pits his hopes against Sue's practicality, and the two embark on a twisted, bumpy, freeing journey to discover that their place in the world just might be together.




  Management by writer/director Stephen Belber

Management doesn’t really have a genre. Of course, it does have a fair amount of romantic comedy going on, as well as some pathos, drama, death, Judd Apatow humor and a brief, fleeting moment of me trying to write like Ingmar Bergman. Its only true “ambition”—and thus my only true ambition as the filmmaker—was to create and bring alive two characters for whom life isn’t easy but who nonetheless have an intense desire to live it as best they can.

Management actually began as a one-act play written to be performed at a fundraiser for a now-defunct theater company in New York. The company was called Apartment 929, which was the unit in which the late, avant-garde downtown theater director Joseph Chaikin used to live (in the Westbeth Artists Community building in Manhattan). (Chaikin directed many of Sam Shepard’s early plays.) The evening was called Motel Blues, and they asked a number of playwrights (including Shepard) to write plays that took place in motel rooms. I had actually already written a play that took place in a motel room (Tape), so I needed to think beyond my normal thinking on this one (which is to say I couldn’t really phone it in). And so, I got a little drunk and somehow came up with two characters named Mike and Sue who were, quite simply, weird. They were also incredibly ill-equipped when it came to human interaction. Thus, when I placed them together in a small, grimy motel room, they had to work really hard to make a meaningful connection, which was actually all they wanted in life—beneath their weirdness and lack-of-human-connection equipment.

The play went off nicely and that was that. But these two characters (whom the actors Katie Firth and Chris Messina had so beautifully brought to life), kept coming back to me. I became interested in if and how their lives might continue to evolve together after this odd night, this odd moment they had shared in this low-end motel. And so, for the next several years I would, very occasionally, scribble notes about them. It was a relief not to consider the project in any way “formal,” because at the time I was writing “incredibly ambitious” plays, as well as making a living writing larger, “studio” movies, and so Mike and Sue were like an indulgent, fanciful downtime exercise in which the desire to love—despite the obstacles of awkwardness and life-in-general—was their only real goal.

Long story short, I finally wrote it as a movie, and I am quite hopeful you’ll enjoy it.