There's quite the sizzle bubbling underneath the surface of writer/director Craig Trow's 15-minute short film The Manager Position, a dramedy meets fantasy centered around a man named Philip Talbert (Curtiss Cook Jr.). Philip is a seemingly happily married man to Liz (Karina Willis) with one child and another one on the way.
However, Philip has a, well, secret.
After losing his job three months ago when his company closed due to the recession, Philip has endured a series of dead ends and rejections and is beginning to see no light at the end of the tunnel.
Oh, and yeah, he hasn't exactly told his wife that he lost his job.
While the basic storyline in The Manager Position feels familiar, rest assured that Trow gives it all a fresh coat of paint with equal parts empathy and whimsy. Philip has taken to hanging out in his now vacant office, an occupation that includes commandeering the manager's office and, much to his surprise, becoming increasingly surrounded by others whose situations are just like Philip's. The beauty of The Manager Position is that we're never quite sure where Trow is taking us, Philip's self-identity obviously fractured yet his essential goodness and compelling smile constantly drawing us in and making us believe that everything's going to be alright.
The Manager Position is set to screen as an official selection at the acclaimed HollyShorts, an appropriate venue as this is a film that deserves to be seen by discerning shorts loving audiences. The film is executive produced by Andrew Carlberg, Academy Award-winning producer of 2019 live-action short winner Skin.
The Manager Position offers up a rather fantastic journey, grounded in deep empathy for the human experiences but also filled with elements of fantasy and more than a little touch of social satire as it's clear that Philip has allowed himself to become maimed and shamed by "failing" in a system that is set up to ensure failure. If that sounds like the film gets heavy, rest assured that Trow keeps things light and spray from Owen Hamilton's light and spry lensing to Julie Wheat's inspired costume design and an original soundtrack that is absolutely sublime.
The film's ensemble cast is impressive across the board. It starts with a mighty fine performance by Curtiss Cook Jr., a master at wringing every ounce of dramedy from every single moment in the film and such a charismatic presence that you practically want to call up every Hollywood studio and say "No, really. Cast this guy."
Emmy nominee Jackie Hoffman is a delight as Helen, whose sudden presence in the film triggers much of everything else that unfolds. Charlie McElveen is appropriately smooth and smarmy as the upwardly mobile T.J. and, of course, Karina Willis shines as Liz.
In the end, The Manager Position doesn't go quite where you expect it to go but it does very likely go exactly where it needs to go. Ultimately a tip o' the hat to human resilience in the hardest of times, The Manager Position takes a fresh perspective on a familiar story and brings it all beautifully to life.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic