Review: Price Check
PLOT: A bored but content office drone for a supermarket chain finds his life shaken up with the arrival of a new boss, a high-strung, filter-free L.A. transplant. When she insists upon his participation in a new marketing plan to save their dwindling business, the family man is surprised to find himself enjoying the ride.
REVIEW: Parker Posey fans will not want to skip out on PRICE CHECK, which in a lot of ways features the quintessential performance by the indie darling in a role that fits her like a glove. Posey's Susan Felders is a high-energy, take-no-shit, say-whatever's-on-her-mind kind of gal, a woman who you want to push away and hug at the same time; want to tell to shut the hell up while thinking about how good she looks while she's in your face.
She certainly has that effect on Pete Cozy (Eric Mabius), a 30-something guy who was once passionate about music but, to his weary chagrin, has now found himself working in the pricing department of a fading supermarket chain. Pete has a lovely wife, Sara (Annie Parisse), and young son, a nice house - and an awful lot of debt. Each and every day brings Pete further away from his dream of owning an indie record label (even though everyone keeps telling him the music industry is dead). but how can he complain when he's "happy" with his sweet family and adequate paycheck?
After Pete's boss retires, Susan is brought in from L.A. to aggressively alter the company's business plan and implements a sales tactic stolen from another branch of the conglomerate, pressing the entire office to work longer hours through the holidays. Pete is drawn to Susan despite her seemingly bi-polar tendencies, while she in turn immediately inserts herself into his life, inviting herself to his son's Halloween party at school and becoming besties with his wife. More than that, she is driven to make him invested in the company's future by giving him a lavish raise and promoting him to V.P. (something he thought he didn't even want). Before Pete knows it, he actually cares about this new marketing scheme, has renewed energy and enthusiasm. He also slowly but surely cares about Susan, their their tense relationship floewing into something else entirely.
Written and directed by Michael Walker, PRICE CHECK is a surprisingly engaging experience; at first it comes off like every 90s indie movie about work and relationships that has since slipped out of your mind (Posey's presence certainly helps this feel like a relic from years past), but it's insightful, funny and genuine. Its characters are certainly flawed, and the movie makes no excuses for them - Pete starts off as the typical "nice guy", but ultimately makes some very unsympathetic decisions, while Susan is irritating beyond words sometimes. Thankfully, the actors are strong and have palpable chemistry. Posey can do faux-happy bordering on dementia like no one else, and as mentioned before, this is the role she was born to play.
There's a truthfulness at work here, especially the way the movie examines Pete: at 36, is he wrong to still dream of throwing it all away to focus on music - isn't life about doing what makes us truly happy? - or should he be content, stick with the lame job and climb the corporate ladder, even if its a ladder to a place he has no interest in going? Indeed, something most people can relate to, even if they don't want to admit it, is the simmering feeling of regret when you find yourself "happy" with your life instead of actually happy with it. Walker's screenplays doesn't overblow the middle class, midlife crisis the way a film like AMERICAN BEAUTY does; it simply gives us a believable portrait of a guy who was probably cool in high school but has crashed down to earth, his keen taste in music meaning absolutely nothing in a bland office building, who needs to find excitement and passion wherever he can.