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Eric Mabius Talks Grocery Stores, Parker Posey And 'Price Check'

November 22nd, 2012 1:00pm EST

Price Check Independent film has always been an oasis to which dedicated film aficionados can escape when they need to have their thirst for mental stimulation quenched after being bombarded by the typical Hollywood fare. No stranger to the indie film scene, Eric Mabius (Ugly Betty) knows the challenges filmmakers face when trying to battle vampires and superheroes for moviegoers’ attention. His latest film, Price Check, has been called the definition of an indie film, having been shot in just 18 days on a budget of less than $1 million.

“That’s the state of independent film,” Mabius points out. “There’s not enough money and there’s not enough time.” While those hindrances may work against other films, Price Check seems to thrive on the pressure, offering a stripped down, realistic look at office life that is both laugh-out-loud funny and disturbingly realistic. And there is good reason for that. “It was one single office,” Mabius says when describing the actual office building in which the movie was filmed. “Many of us had to walk a long way to [arrive on set]. There was nowhere to go. There was no craft service, there were no trailers.” The lack of glamour most people associate with movie-making seeps into the film’s narrative like day old coffee no one wants to replace.

Written and directed by Michael Walker, Price Check will connect with anyone who has ever dragged themselves out of bed in the morning to an office job they are not necessarily thrilled about. [Michael] wrote the script from a lot of experiences his friends had had,” Mabius explains. “There were specific people, friends in his life he based this on.” The authenticity comes across wonderfully as co-workers squabble over donuts and suffer the inappropriate comments of the office’s token pervert.

Mabius’ character, Pete Cozy, works in the pricing department of a struggling supermarket chain. He has a loving wife, Sara (Annie Parisse), a young son and a pile of debt that his $40,000 a year job isn’t quite covering. Talking about his character, Mabius says, “[Pete] sacrificed a career in the music industry for a house in the suburbs, a yard for his kid to play in and a steady paycheck.” There’s a trade-off, though: “He’s a zombie until Susan Felders comes along.”

Susan Felders, played brilliantly by the great Parker Posey, is the new marketing manager sent from corporate and thrust into Pete’s life. Posey gives possibly her most dynamic performance in years, switching from manic enthusiasm to near melancholy sometimes in the same scene. For Mabius, though, Posey’s energy was terrific. “She (Felders) is the energy that shocks everyone out of their mundane existence to get them to care about the most boring job in the world,” Mabius says of his co-star’s performance. “She was so much fun to work with.” Aside from being a talented actor, Posey has also come to be the poster child of indie world. “She’s consistently a champion of independent film,” Mabius says, laughing. “They don’t call her the Queen of Sundance for nothing.”

No stranger to Sundance himself, Mabius traveled to Park City, Utah earlier this year with Posey and Walker when Price Check screened at the Sundance Film Festival. “It was exciting to be there after all those years and see how much it has changed,” Mabius reflects. “It wasn’t about going out at night, it was about seeing some films and doing the work I had to get done while I was there.” When his first film, Welcome to the Dollhouse, won the Grand Jury prize at Sundance in 1995, Mabius knew he was experiencing something special. “I was just out of college, so it was a wild ride,” he says. “I had seven films at Sundance in four years.”

When asked what it is like bouncing back and forth between television series like Ugly Betty and indie films like Price Check, Mabius points out that it’s not fair to compare the two. “The process is really the goal,” he says about his choice of project, whether it is a TV show or a feature film. “I take each project on like something completely self-contained. I don’t want to compare it to Ugly Betty. I think you’re shooting yourself in the foot if you do too much of that.” His approach is clearly working. One glance at his IMDB page makes him look as over-scheduled as James Franco.

While Price Check is, outwardly, a light-hearted comedy, much of the story will hit close to home as audiences watch Pete and Sara struggle to raise their son on a one-salary income. When Pete is given a promotion by Susan and doubling of his salary, he is almost too flabbergasted to thank her. So does Mabius think the film is a reflection of what many Americans are facing on a daily basis in today’s economy? “I think it’s more about the manipulation of the consumer,” he says, referencing a scene in which Susan is able to guess the contents of Pete and Sara’s refrigerator due to her years of experience. “We’re being manipulated when we go into buy clothing, luxury goods. But we don’t think about it as much in the grocery store. I didn’t realize how much we are manipulated from the second we walk into the store.” In the film, that manipulation and conspicuous consumption is what has gotten Pete and Sara into so much trouble; she wants a bigger house, he wants a cool job in the music industry.

Ultimately, though, the film is about the trust that is integral to successful relationships. Mabius is proud of his work and the movie itself which is a thankful diversion from the onslaught of comic book adaptations at the multiplex and a reminder that independent film is as alive and vital as ever.

Related: Eric Mabius, Parker Posey, Price Check, Starpulse Exclusives, Movies

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Photo Credits: IFC Films

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