The Company Men

The Company Men

In Theatres: 
Jan 21, 2011
Running Time: 
109 minutes

Director John Wells was the creator of the television-hit "E.R", launching the career of George Clooney.

 In a time where jobs are at stake and people are struggling to support their families, no one company is safe from the destruction of the economy. As employees, we give ourselves to our companies. So what do our companies do for us? Are we truly receiving the respect and appreciation that we deserve for dedicating our lives to our respective jobs? Director John Wells has been asking himself these questions and is ready to give some answers in the form of his newest film, "The Company Men".

Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) is your normal everyday businessman. He's training to be CEO and enjoys his occasional golf game on the side. But in one fell swoop, disaster strikes as his company announces a massive lay-off in a percentage of their employees. Walker soon finds himself without a job and without direction as to what he can do to change it. After arranging a meeting with his boss, Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones), Bobby soon realizes that the management is almost as clueless to the reasoning behind the lay-offs as the employees are. Also seeking the consulting of McClary is fellow employee and friend, Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper), an elderly man who fears how long he will be able to stay employed. McClary and Woodward both attempt to find their release while supplying a reason to stay employed with a faulty company while Bobby is trying to get a grip of not only his employment, but his own life. With a supporting wife (the lovely Rosemarie DeWitt) and a fall-back job at working as a construction worker with his brother-in-law (Kevin Costner*), Bobby is sure to find employment soon! Right?

The heart of "The Company Men" is undeniably how we, as workers, are easily replaced and how we overcome these struggles. For the majority of the films' runtime, we follow Bobby Walker and how he attempts to remain being seen as the high-class worker he is known as. Even while struggling with finances, he attempts to play at the expensive golf course with his high-class buddies. Ben Affleck really shows the heartbreak and dedication that brings Bobby to life. He is almost always a sure-fire hit with his acting and this is no exception. John Wells knows how to pick out A-class actors that breathe life into their characters (Wells also created The West Wing). But Affleck is only as good as his supporting cast.

Tommy Lee Jones and Chris Cooper bring a really interesting feel to the story of losing your job: Age. Both well over their 50's, McClary and Woodward aren't in much of a position to find another job that they're truly qualified for. Woodward worries for his family while McClary finds an outlet in his mistress, fellow co-worker Sally Wilcox (Maria Bello). McClary is torn between losing his own job, disappointing his family (further) and losing the people he respects as co-workers. Tommy Lee Jones does this character justice as the middle man who gets burned for the decisions made by his bosses, one of which is the cold James Salinger (Craig T. Nelson). Although friends, Salinger never bothers to really listen to McClary's disagreements with what is happening. Nelson does what he needs to do, but never matches the intensity that Jones and Cooper reach. Then again, his character isn't ever really given the chance, outside of one scene that proves him capable of being human. 

As a film, "The Company Men" is actually rather enjoyable, if not just for its' performances. Wells brings us an interesting look into how destructive lay-offs can be, even when it happens to the more fortunate American family. But here lies the main issues with "The Company Men": Are American audiences ready to watch a film about how the economy affects the higher class when we ourselves are feeling the sting? I had no issue feeling sympathy and connecting with the characters presented on screen, but other audience members may not be as entertained. It's true, in order to connect with these men, you'll have to accept that they have much more luxurious than most of us. One of Bobby's more struggling tasks is having to give up the expensive golfing range he so frequently visits. That will be a little difficult for some audiences to connect with, but the struggle to seem perfect is far too human not to recognize it. Before judging these characters are rich and spoiled, let's just remember that if given the same resources as them, we might just be in the same position. 

Supported by an incredibly human script and fine performances all around, "The Company Men" is a rare find in the slow film month that is January. 

*How is Kevin Costner still in movies? 

Ryan Sterritt
Review by Ryan Sterritt
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