One of the easiest places to mine comedy from is the workplace. Since the early days, the workplace has symbolized the common man better than any other scenario. Concepts such as flawed systems and deadlines have provided comedic gold and came to fruition with Office Space. With Price Check, the story follows Pete (Eric Mabius), who works at a failing grocery store marketing department. When a new manager named Susan (Parker Posey) comes in to boost sales, does the story provide any new insight into the workplace comedy, or it just another boring day at the office?
Pete, who is a former music scout for a record label, takes a steady job he hates in order to provide for his family. When Susan transfers to the division, she falls for him and begins giving him special perks. Some of these perks are more straightforward like bonuses and a promotion. The other perks are more subtle, such as going to concerts and interacting with Pete’s home life. This is fine until Susan reveals her true colors as a control freak who wants healthier snack options and a more aggressive work ethic. She is like a more adorable Daniel Plainview of the grocery store marketing world.
The reason this movie works is largely thanks to Parker Posey. She tackles the line between adorable naivety and tough businesswoman in very endearing fashion. As the film starts closing in on a third act, the charm begins to wear off. The rest of the story is very somber and meandering. While Eric Mabius and Amy Schumer provide some comical moments, the story lacks momentum and doesn’t finish strong. This is also problematic as Posey becomes secondary and the less interesting characters are forced to carry the film. The one benefit is that the film understands the narrative, but the stakes aren’t high enough to make the execution interesting.
Director and writer Michael Walker has created an interesting scenario, but the results feel understated. Even with a big conflict, it feels brushed over. The romance between Posey and Mabius is equally nonthreatening and eventually resolves itself in a conventional way. Even the music choice, which includes Luna and Laurie Berkner, seems to feel conventional in tone. With exception to a scene involving Berkner’s song “Dinosaurs,” the soundtrack is very distracting. The atmospheric tones add too much pretension to a comedy about the workplace. It may serve to flesh out Pete’s character, but it doesn’t work for the rest of the story.
Price Check has some moments of cleverness, though. The office characters all feel authentic enough to have carried the movie on their own. The notable standouts are Xosha Roquemore and Schumer, whose characters may be poorly constructed, but provide more insight than the lead characters seem to have. This is almost suggesting that if the workplace romantic comedy dropped the romance, then this movie would have been better, or at least more interesting. At most it would have cut up the conventionality into a more promising execution.
This is not a bad film, but for a story about the workplace, it has nothing interesting or new to provide. This is largely due to a script that understates every action and therefore keeps us from trusting the characters. What was originally established as compelling anti-heroes turns quickly into conventional romance mixed in with atmospheric indie rock. There aren’t enough memorable or authentic moments to really make Price Check a worthwhile movie. Still, it is safe enough to avoid any conflicting opinions, which may be its biggest offense. There is a decent story here, but it is buried under a meandering romance that even ruins the adorable nature of Parker Posey.