Reality is boring. The realness of emotions is what captivates, but the routine of most day-to-day lives is rarely worthy of an audience’s attention. Being stuck in a meeting discussing market shares and strategies may be relatable, but it’s also painfully mundane. It’s also the excruciating world of Michael Walker‘s indie flick Price Check. Never has a film made me so depressed by an office environment where people get worked up about how best to implement a new pricing system for a supermarket chain. Walker never finds the comedy or absurdity in the commonplace, and instead turns his attention to a tired and predictable relationship between a quirky boss and her subordinate.
Pete Cozy (Eric Mabius) works at a struggling supermarket chain, and he doesn’t see much of a future in his job, which is a problem since he wants to have enough money to be a good father and husband. The company then has a shake-up and brings in firecracker boss Susan Felders (Parker Posey) to incorporate a new strategy. Felders instantly promotes Cozy because he likes his taste in music (he used to work for a record company), and soon begins to blur the line between the personal and the professional.
If there’s one admirable quality in Price Check, it’s how Walker never wants to push Susan into being nothing but a bundle of quirks. While this makes Susan a believable character (just barely), it never makes her a compelling one. She’s a bit dangerous, and a bit unstable, but there’s not much depth beyond making Pete slightly uncomfortable. She never adds any tension to the scene as much as it feels like she’s the only reason the film has any trace of a pulse.
Outside of Susan, there’s no personality in Price Check. Pete exists to be befuddled by Susan, and the rest of the office is a collection of one-dimensional drones caught up in her dull scheme to make sure their supermarket is successful. It’s almost as if Walker wanted to convey some sense of absurdity by how hard everyone is working towards a banal goal, but the film isn’t clever enough to play off that absurdity. It’s simply boring people doing boring things.
To its credit, Price Check did make me feel grateful. It made me grateful that I don’t work in an office. If companies like the one depicted in Price Check wonder why productivity is so low, it isn’t because of Farmville or Twitter. It’s because people will do anything to escape a dull, grey life where they’re forced to care about where the Hamburger Helper will get placed at the local supermarket. Watching Price Check is like unpaid overtime.