Friday, February 4, 2011

The Company Men

Written and directed by John Wells, former West Wing showrunner and once president of the Writers Guild of America, The Company Men takes a look at three men each effected when the company which has employed them for years begins massive downsizing that eventually leaves each of them without a job.

Ben Affleck stars as the hot-shot salesman with a wife (Rosemarie DeWitt) and family who can't accept his new situation and becomes increasingly frustrated when no new opportunities for employment present themselves. Chris Cooper is the longtime company man who worked his way from the factory floor to the boardroom. And Tommy Lee Jones is the best friend of company owner (Craig T. Nelson) who dislikes his life, the compromises being made in the company he helped start, and a wife whose only cares seem to be opportunities to shop - which explains why he prefers the spending time with the company's hatchet woman (Maria Bello) instead.

The majority of the first-half of the flm deals with Bobby's firing and the effect it has on his family as he struggles to find a job, meets new friends in a job placement center, and eventually swallows his pride and begins working construction for his brother-in-law (Kevin Costner). This part of the tale plays out as you'd expect: a jerk who's had it too easy for years learns to swallow his pride and make sacrifices as his family rallies around him.

These scenes are inter-cut with Cooper's fear of being let go and Jones' relationship with Bello. Early on the film struggles to fine a consistent rhythm and pace. It's only when the other two find themselves in similar circumstances as Affleck's character that the film really finds itself.

The Company Men is a solid film without many surprises. If you don't know where each of these characters is going to end up by the end of the movie you simply aren't paying attention. That doesn't mean the journey is worth watching. The performances are all solid and the relationships between the characters are more complicated than a simple word or deed can fix. No one here is perfect; I enjoyed how the film let each character be petty at times.

It's certainly not in the league with Up in the Air (my favorite movie of 2009). Although the dialogue is a bit clunky, and at times it feels a little too much like Wells is hand-holding us through the story, The Company Men does a good job in delivering the frustration, anger, and loss each of these three individuals are feeling. Even if the words aren't always right, the emotion behind them is (even if movie smells more than a little like Oscar-bait to my trained nose).

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