“The Company Men” Tackles Timely Subject
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Ever been laid off? I have, when my last company merged my division with another. With unemployment hovering over 9 percent, it’s likely that at one time or another you have too.
Filmmaker John Wells is gambling whether you’ll go see a movie about that gut-wrenching experience. His take on that subject, “The Company Men,” is playing this week at the Tropic Cinema.
Here we have Bobby Walker (well played by Ben Affleck), a hotshot golf-playing exec who is caught unaware when his company downsizes. Or as they teach us to say in the corporate world, rightsizes.
“They fired me,” he breaks the news to his wife. “Something about redundancies.”
Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper) is trying to do what’s right for the company’s financial health but gets the ax too. And co-founder Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones) is against this heartless maneuver but not immune himself.
Bobby’s wife Maggie (Rosemarie DeWitt) is worried for her out-of-work husband. And Jack Dolan (Kevin Costner) has a manual-labor job waiting for his brother-in-law if he’ll take it.
Can a “suit” adapt to this radical change from corporate boardroom to construction site? Well, that’s what this movie is about, three men hit hard by corporate downsizing.
Does the storyline hit too close to home for moviegoers? That fear made financing the film difficult. “Some people likened it to Iraq War movies,” admits Ben Affleck. “When Iraq was the thing in the national consciousness that was the most painful, a lot of people wanted to avert their gaze. And people thought,
‘Well, this is going to be the same kind of thing.’ And so there were a lot of concerns.”
Yet, he says, “It inspired me when I read the screenplay.”
Will you be inspired? Maybe not, if your home is in foreclosure and your unemployment checks are running out.
“This movie’s got a very hopeful message, particularly toward the end,” insists Affleck. “It suggests that we’re going to be able to recover and grow and maybe be better for it ultimately.”
Affleck pushes the film’s message. “It’s this thing that we get told, where we’ll be happy if we can just get that next promotion, or you’ll really find happiness if you get the right refrigerator or get a pair of jet skis or a nice tennis racket. My character kinda subscribes to all that stuff. But it’s all knocked out from under him. And so he is forced to look at his own identity, who he is outside of his job. To recalibrate his relationship with his family and realize the fundamental importance of it.”
Researching the film was “depressingly easy” says the actor. “I didn’t have to look any further than guys I grew up with – guys I went to grade school with and high school with – and who had really, you know, decent, reasonable, sometimes really good jobs, and boom, were all of a sudden out of work.”
But Affleck and his co-stars aren’t really hurting – “riding around Hollywood in their Porches,” as one moviegoer put it. Will audiences buy into their pain as out-of-work execs of a shipbuilding company? Are they that good as actors?
Affleck, Cooper, Jones, and Costner – the Oscars on their mantles are numerous. So no wonder the Weinstein Company had hopes of a few golden statuettes for this film. But the Weinstein brothers pushed “The Company Men” aside for a surer bet, their current hit “The King’s Speech.”
No need to be redundant.
[from Solares Hill]