Price Check, director Michael Walker’s sophomore feature, coming twelve years after his 2000 debut, Chasing Sleep is a complete 180 from his first film. Whereas Walker’s first foray was in the psychological art house, this latest feature is a comedic character study that has one delectable asset that is both the sole reason to see the film, and also, sadly, what viciously outshines every other aspect of the film; and that’s a wickedly perfect role for Parker Posey.
Eric Mabius stars as Pete Cozy, a disinterested employee in regional pricing and marketing for a flagging grocery store company in Long Island. Having given up a career in producing music, Pete’s job supports his stay at home wife and their new child. When his boss suddenly leaves for bigger and better things, his replacement is a super motivated force of nature, Susan Felders (Parker Posey), a hilarious and terrifying overachiever that turns the regional office upside down. Nearly doubling Pete’s salary and making him a VP, she manages to rally a previously detached staff into a frenzy of productivity. The more money Pete makes, the more cozy he gets with Susan, who whisks him away to an important meeting in Los Angeles, where she unceremoniously seduces him, claiming she wants to be impregnated (though they do carry on with their affair rather indiscreetly back at the office). But when Pete’s schmoozing with upper management (Edward Herrmann) causes him to be courted for a position Susan has set her sights on, Pete suddenly gets the kibosh. Is this a chance to turn over a new life or seek revenge?
It’s been a minute since Ms. Posey snagged such a delicious role (since at least 2007, when she had two awesome turns in Fay Grim and Broken English), and her presence here is not unlike her 1997 crowd pleasing turn in The House of Yes. But just as in that film, Posey is such an excellent performer with superb comedic timing, that she clearly obfuscates weaker performers. In the case of Price Check, Posey’s like an expert boat rower without a boat to row in, making the film’s dizzyingly funny first half crash and burn miserably by its last.
After Posey dispatches her f*ck buddy cum competitor, it’s as if director/screenwriter Michael Walker had no idea where to go from there (the climax and final moments of the film are extremely subpar). Clearly, he has a knack for writing interesting characters (as with the Jeff Daniels protagonist in Chasing Sleep), but if he’d been unable to land the vivacious Posey, Price Check would definitely be bargain bin. It tries to say something about money, morals, selling out on dreams, etc, but all that flaccid dressing just doesn’t mesh. As a director, Walker certainly has some talent, and it’d be a pity if it took another decade to see more of his work. It’d just be nice if he could fully transcend a concept to creation.
Reviewed on January 25 at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival – PREMIERES Programme.