“Price Check,” written and directed by Michael Walker, is about the price we have to pay for happiness, or at least financial security. Set in a drab office in a Long Island suburb not far removed from TV’s “The Office,” it features ordinary people struggling in the economy and having to make tough choices. Pete Cozy (Eric Mabius) is one such person just making the bare minimum in order to support his wife and kid. That is until a hurricane called Susan Felders (Parker Posey) walks into the building and his life to shake things up.
Pete is a low-level employee in the pricing department of an underperforming supermarket chain. He used to work in the music industry but like many people he had to give up his dream job in order to get a paying job. He doesn’t particularly like his work, and his paycheck barely covers his credit card debts and his mortgage. The pay would be bigger if he would make vice-president, but that would mean spending fewer hours with his wife Sara (Annie Parrisse) and his young son.
Then along comes new manager Susan Felders, who really knows how to take over a room. She begins by distributing her résumé to the room full of disinterested pasty office drones who walked in wondering whether or not she was hot. Not only is she hot but also burning with energy to increase productivity. She eliminates donuts from the break room, encourages everyone to join the gym across the street and inaugurates the company’s first annual Halloween party to strenghten team spirit. Costumes are mandatory.
While trying to force new strategies down the company’s throat, Susan also slowly inserts herself into Pete’s life. During her first day she invites herself to Pete’s house and befriends his wife. After dinner she quickly asks him who she should fire in the office, only to fire a different person the next day. Things heat up at the office party when Susan wears one sexy Pocahontas costume and Pete doesn’t miss her fishnet stockings and the strategic placement of her dream catcher.
Inappropriate office behavior aside, Pete’s life also changes professionally. Susan gives him an extra pile of work, cutting into his family life. She also names him VP and doubles his salary. Suddenly Pete is much more motivated to do his job. During a business trip to Los Angeles, Susan makes him pay for an expensive suit and a new haircut so he looks professional in front of the big boss. Of course the higher he moves up the food chain, the less time Pete spends with his wife and kid. Susan on the other hand is getting his full attention.
The movie depicts two contrasting lifestyles, implying people from the American west coast are more image obsessed than people on the suburban east coast. While going with her L.A friends, Susan complains how the only restaurant back east is T.G.I.F. To be fair, the people in Pete’s office do seem to have given up on life. When one of them walks through the front door, she says: “Being human sucks. I hope someone brought donuts.”
Posey carries the movie throughout with her manic portrayal of Susan. Here is a character that goes from being all-nice and smiles to spiting out expletives like a drill sergeant in one scene. When a company C.F.O says he can’t implement her new strategies, she literally rolls on the floor screaming “WHY DID YOU HIRE ME?” You could say she has an addictive personality since she even converts an employee. Lila (Amy Schumer) is initially insulted when Susan implies she is fat, but ends absorbing her attitude and pressures the other employees to get off their butts and do better.
Yet there is sadness to the character. Susan is an unstoppable force of nature who will probably end up running the company one day, but the reason she becomes fixated on Pete is because he has what she doesn’t have time to have: a family. Nothing says “desperate” like a single woman showing up unannounced on the doorstep of a married man on Christmas Eve. That is the price she paid for her success.
(“Price Check” is available on DVD and is streaming on Netflix.)