Sunday, February 15, 2009

New In Town

Ditzy and Klutzy

In this economic climate of corporate downsizing, one wonders how the corporate boys in monkey suits on the board run their business with the help of a spreadsheet. It's always easy to see which areas of the business bleed red, and decide then on to send hatchet-men to the ground to execute (pardon the pun) and prune various portions of that wound to try and stop the hemorrhage, failing which a complete amputation would be required. It's easy making such decisions from the ivory tower devoid of decent human interaction, but never easy from the folks on the ground to do it, because it leaves just a bad aftertaste, especially when the folks are friends, and people you know.

For Lucy Hill (a visibly aged Renee Zellweger), she's a high flying executive of a corporation headquartered in sunny Miami, but what I think was because of a sexist board, she gets sent off to the wintry conditions of a small Minnesota town to effect their wishes, and that is to remove 50% of the employee population there to keep an unprofitable factory there under some cost control. Being an alpha-female type who never say no to challenges and her career, she makes that journey and has this high-and-mighty air about her, which through the course of her stay in town, their warm hospitality, sense of humour and all round, small town camaraderie, will slowly thaw that cold heart of hers.

There were plenty of charming moments in the film, courtesy of a whole host of ensemble characters built for the plot, such as Siobhan Fallon's Blanche Gunderson, who becomes Lucy's personal assistant aka secretary, and in all earnestness, tries to establish a friendship with her would-be boss, as well as trying to hook Lucy up with the town hunk Ted Mitchell (Harry Connick Jr) who so happens to also be heading the workers' union. Complications naturally arise from this conflict of interest, which puts Lucy in two minds as she has her orders to follow, yet find herself inevitably drawn to follow her heart as well. And yes, this is also truly a romantic movie, which I thought had effectively balanced affairs of the heart as well as how modern day corporations run the shop, with pink slips being very easy to dish out.

Some portions remind me of a Hong Kong movie about a noodle factory (whose title eludes me at this moment, but starring Sam Hui and Tsui Hark, yes you read me right), where a band of merry men have to put aside their differences from their immediate manager and amongst themselves, to try and salvage their jobs and their livelihood. It's a pretty standard affair that you see both the problems and the solutions coming from a mile away when they're mentioned, and the plot is extremely straightforward as well, with no meandering twists and turns. But hey, it's supposed to be a romantic story, and both Zellweger (complete with excellent comic timing) and Connick Jr did well given their limited screen time together to make it all believable.

But the scene stealer here has got to be J.K. Simmons, who disappears effectively behind a fat suit and is quite unrecognizable. He represents the kind of supervisors that managers love to hate and have no qualms giving the marching orders to, but also serves as a reminder that such on-the-ground folks who garner the respect of the troops, are always worth their weight in gold, because once they're on your side, they have motivational techniques par none to get things done.

I was OK with the romantic plot here, but the Management 101 issues presented, was way more entertaining and valuable.

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