Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Company Men

Ben Affleck appears to be on a nice little roll. He seems to be hitting his stride first as a director in Gone Baby Gone and the Town and as an actor in smaller fare like Hollywoodland. Honestly I've always liked the guy but it did appear for a while that it was getting to his head. It's nice to see him back in good character driven stories like Company Men. Director John Wells got some of the best character actors in the business to be in the film with solid actors like Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper and Maria Bello. I also really enjoyed Craig T. Nelson and Rosemarie DeWitt. Craig plays a great jerkwad boss who is completely unaware of the suffering of his employees, and worse he probably could care less. And Rosemarie De Witt isn't in as many scenes as she should be but her presence was felt always. The film was in some senses a less depressing version of Up In the Air, or to put it more bluntly it follows the poor saps that George Clooney was firing. I was skeptical of the film at first especially when I saw John Wells name attached. If you know anything about Wells and his TV background you'll know that he had a hand in two of my favorite shows West Wing and E.R. but he also had a bad habit of over the top melodrama; Think E.R. when the tank came to the hospital or a hostage crisis in the E.R. Now I'm not saying he masterminded these episodes himself but he was executive producer and both shows seemed to suffer from this problem from time to time especially during sweeps week. So given this dubious background I was concerned that this problem would carry over to his feature directorial debut. I can happily tell you that it doesn't happen and in fact it really captures the Corporate culture and all of it's terrible faults accurately without banging you over the head with it.
A low level Corporate salesman, for a shipbuilding firm is laid off and he struggles to put his life back together. Bobby Walker, (Ben Affleck) can't seem to adjust to not only losing his job but losing the perks that go with it, his Porsche and playing golf. It's almost sad watching him struggle in denial about what just happened and how he may have to adjust his lifestyle in order to pay the bills and support his family. The film also follows Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper), a middle aged man who finds himself on the chopping block, and his story is even more heartbreaking as he is only a few years from retirement. Chris Cooper gives another great performance as a man who has his dignity stolen from him in the most humiliating way possible. His age becomes a hurdle for him in job placement as he isn't given quite the golden parachute his kindly boss, Gene McLary (Tommy Lee Jones) is given. Tommy Lee Jones' character is hard to pin down he's a corporate guy living high on the hog but he does seem to have a sense of honor and he truly cares about the people under him. Its interesting watching him navigate through the impending doom of his company and hoping and waiting for him to do the right thing. The story takes direct aim at the current financial crisis and the out of touch Corporate culture that still continues to dominate our world in the worst ways possible.
It's an honest examination of the White Collar world in the 21st Century and I have heard some complaints about the ending being too happy, which personally I think is ridiculous. I think for those of us who work in any industry would like to believe and at least hope that someone from the upper management cares about the welfare of their employees beyond just paying them. That being said every time I felt like the movie was getting sappy or over the top they balance it out nicely. I even enjoyed the scenes where Bobby has to work for his brother-in-law in construction just to pay the bills. Someone should honestly tell Kevin Costner never to attempt a Boston accent, he didn't get it right on Thirteen Days and he certainly didn't again here. But at least he toned it down. So if you are caught up on all of your Oscar nominated flicks then you should see this little film, it's a good drama with some great performances.
Grade: 3 Buckets

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