John C. Reilly is, once again, so subtle in his performance that it is hard to tell he is acting at all.
The most enjoyable and pleasant part of The Promotion, starring Seann William Scott and John C. Reilly, is the pacing and timing of the action and humor. The film is short, only 85 minutes, but you don’t feel cheated at the end because it is just the right length for the story it aims to tell.
Doug (Scott) is an assistant manager at Donaldson’s, a grocery store chain in Chicago. By no means is he the happiest guy in the world, but he isn’t too depressed either. He has a loving wife, and a moderate amount of respect from his employees. When Doug finds out a new Donaldson’s is being built, he is told he is a shoe-in for the manager position, a prospect that prompts him to put a bid in on a house for himself and his wife.
His dream is disrupted when Richard (Reilly) is brought in as a new assistant manager and also shows interest in the available manager position. The two grown men, realizing the other’s intentions, begin the most passive-aggressive struggle for dominance ever. Their attempts at sabotage range for immature to downright unforgivable, and they are all hilarious. Each man has his own reasons for wanting the job and they are almost identically qualified. But, there is only one spot and neither man is willing to give in.
The script is simply terrific. It is funny and darkly humorous and has moments of seriousness that don’t feel contrived or out of place. Writer/director Steve Conrad paces the movie with perfect restraint and control of the material and his actors.
Which brings us to Reilly, the single best part of the film. He is, once again, so subtle in his performance that it is hard to tell he is acting at all. He is a man whose only goal is to keep moving forward through life in a positive way to avoid backsliding into his "demons." He is at once pathetic and sad, but also lovable and sympathetic.
Scott is fun to watch as Doug, a man who has settled for too little for too long. He is determined to change the life he and his wife have created because he knows they deserve more. Scott is subdued but never boring or flat; the perfect pitch for the character.
There are plenty of other fun characters throughout the film, especially the store manager (Fred Armisen), who is so frustratingly weak and spineless that you can’t help but laugh at him while also hoping for something bad to happen. I wish more would have been done with Jenna Fischer’s character as Doug’s wife because she is so wonderful to watch onscreen.
Definitely take the time to see The Promotion. It is a small, simple film, but it is also heartfelt and funny; most everyone will have an easy time identifying with the characters and what they have to go through. | Matthew F. Newlin