Price Check

Eric Mabius (plays Pete Cozy) and Parker Posey (Plays Susan Felders) in PRICE CHECK at 2012 Sundance
Film Festival

Photo: Copyright 2012 Atalanta Visions. All rights reserved.

Does feminism have an ugly side?  Filmmaker Michael Walker seems to think so.

In this humorous new workplace satire, Parker Posey plays Susan Felders, a marketing manager who parachutes into a remote regional office to save a failing retail grocery chain.  Susan quickly imposes a new management style on the team, firing employees to reduce costs, violating professional boundaries, revealing uncomfortable personal information, having sex with male coworkers at office parties and then putting them back in their place in the office, and browbeating everyone into achieving business goals that will propel Susan to her ultimate career objective as chief executive of marketing in the L.A. corporate office.  As the story progresses, we see Susan Felders have her man and eat him too as she uses Pete Cozy to meet both her career and reproductive needs, and then puts him through the shredder when he becomes an obstacle in her path. In the process, Susan uses every feminine wile available to her from tantrums to sex to P.M.S.

Eric Mabius plays Pete Cozy, the man who is drawn into Susan's web with money and flattery, egged on by his own wife who hungers for more money and the material entrapments of suburbia for which he gave up his own dream of pursuing a career in the recording industry. Pete is almost ready to ditch his marital ties until Susan's treachery pulls him back to domestic earth.  In the end, Pete pays the price for his choices.

Price Check is the ultimate gender morality tale for today.  I like this funny film primarily because it does not necessarily take sides. As we watch Pete whipsawed and sexually manipulated by both boss and wife, we see the ulterior motives of two stereotypical women for whom men serve as mere facilitators.  As Parker Posey said during the Sundance Q&A, she took this role because she likes films that not only entertain, but also have a message.  For Posey, the message in the character of Susan Felders is what happens when women act like men.  In Posey's words, "it's the ugly side of feminism".  Posey puts in a fabulous performance as the predatory Susan--funny and shocking. Annie Parise as Pete's wife Sara Biltmore-Cozy, is much more subtle, and of course, she has first claim on Pete as wife and mother of his children---her manipulation appears no less self-interested, but she has family values on her side. 

Is Susan Felders for real? During the Sundance Q&A, an audience member made a statement to the effect that she was a female corporate executive and was offended by Posey's portrayal of Susan Felders.  And well she should be offended, but in my own long business career, I can provide several examples of female executives who exhibited behaviors that could form the basis of the Susan Felders character, including a female vice president who frequently called me to her office on pretext of work to regale me with stories about awaking in the night with "anal spasms" or her ongoing campaign to persuade her husband to have a baby. This volatile woman was known for her tirades and universally feared and despised throughout the company, not because she was a strong female, but because she was despotic and crazy. Her career was littered with prior employers who laid her off with big severance packages and a sigh of relief. These women DO exist, and it is impressive how deftly Posey captures the stereotype. 

That said, Price Check is a funny and thought provoking movie for both genders, but after viewing this film, men may be well advised to run screaming from all women. In the U.S. government's most recent breathtakingly sexist act of requiring employers to provide fully paid birth control for women in the name of reproductive rights, men should demand full equality for their reproductive rights.  Women advocates for employer-paid birth control should have the ovaries to dispense with the hypocrisy and just say what male "players" have been saying all along -- it's really all about having sex when they want, with whom they want, for any reason they want, without consequences. Similarly, Price Check humorously exposes the hidden agendas.

Yes, feminism does have an ugly side. It's ugly when men do it, and it's equally ugly when women do it. For it's outrageously funny situations, Parker Posey's dead-on performance, a full comic cast in the tradition of The Office, and a provocative subject matter, I rate Price Check three out of four cappuccinos.


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