At the Isabel Bader Theatre, one of the more intimate venues used by the festival, Sunday night saw the world premiere of the romantic comedy "Management," starring Jennifer Aniston and Steve Zahn. Written and directed by playwright Stephen Belber making his feature film debut, the film is perhaps more Sundance quirky-cute than Toronto sober-serious, but that also makes it a somewhat breezy change of pace. It is not entirely a back-handed compliment to say it could be worse. I recall a comedy in a 9 p.m.-ish Sunday night slot last year that also featured big names and it fell on its face (that would be "Bill"). "Management," based on the emotionally convincing performances by its two leads, largely holds up. Every time I felt my interest waning, a moment would come along to lure me back in.
An appearance by a star of the magnitude of Jennifer Aniston can certainly be a force to be reckoned with, and really does change the temperature of the room. In an unusual announcement, twice the crowd was told that questions should pertain to the film and that those of a personal nature would not be answered. Once Aniston, Zahn and Belber took the stage after the screening, it seemed as if half the people in the room had a cell phone or digital camera parked in front of their face, beeping and clicking and whirring throughout the Q&A. The first few rows were literally shoulder-to-shoulder with souvenir takers and amateur paparazzo.
If it all seemed a little much, sure enough, the second question came from a man in the front row who announced he had a letter that he wanted to give Aniston. There were a few moments of awkward tension before Zahn cheerily piped in, "I'll take it." It still took a few minutes for the session to feel back on track. Aniston, for her part, seemed just a little shocked, more embarrassed really, and dealt with the moment with what can only be described as a certain warm steeliness.
Just another day in the celebrity factory for one of the world's most famous people.
-- Mark Olsen
(Steve Zahn, Jennifer Aniston and Stephen Belber arrive at the premiere of "Management." Photo courtesy of WireImage.com)