THE PROMOTION (Steven Conrad). 85 minutes. Opens Friday (June 27). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NN
Most movie characters have impossibly cool careers – doctors, architects, magazine editors – that function as excuses for their impossibly cool wardrobes and apartments. Rarely, as in The Promotion, does a film care about how people actually earn a living, much less how they feel about it.
But writer-director Steven Conrad is fascinated by such details. A bit too fascinated, maybe.
This story about two well-meaning blue-collar types (Seann William Scott and John C. Reilly) who compete for the same management job at a grocery store gets distracted by its own observations.
While it’s not strictly a comedy, there are quite a few jokes, only a couple of which are actually funny. The Promotion is a lot like the films of Alexander Payne (About Schmidt, Sideways), but with more interest in sadness than satire.
Not that there isn’t the potential for big laughs. Reilly’s character is a former biker and recovering drug addict from Quebec who’s clinging to sobriety via self-help tapes.
Tensions rise between the two rivals but never explode into the game of one-upmanship you expect or wish for. Neither is a bad guy, and both are equally deserving of the new job.
Essentially, they’re the ordinary weak men we all hate to admit we are, struggling to be bigger than they really are.