- Published: Saturday, 23 October 2010 11:50
- Written by Lupe Haas
In THE COMPANY MEN, Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) is living the American dream: great job, beautiful family, shiny Porsche in the garage. When corporate downsizing leaves him and co-workers Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper) and Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones) jobless, the three men are forced to re-define their lives as men, husbands, and fathers.
At first you dislike these men who flaunt their wealth with lavish homes and expensive toys but when they come to face to face with potentially losing the life they were comfortable with, the story becomes interesting. The ensemble cast does a great job of conveying the feelings of their characters and of most Americans. The story will hit home for everyone, even the working class.
After losing his job as a Sales Executive in a ship building corporation, Ben Affleck's Bobby character believes he will rebound with another job with equal pay and thus refuses to cut back on his lavish life when his wife (Rosemarie DeWitt) recommends it. Reality soon hits Bobby when the jobs aren't coming his way and the bills have gone unpaid. He eventually has to accept a blue-collar job with his brother-in-law's (Kevin Costner) carpenter business and endure the grueling physical work.
Bobby's older co-worker played by Chris Cooper is facing an even harsher reality. Who is going to hire a 60 year-old man? They recommend he clean up and dye his hair to look younger. Tommy Lee Jones' Gene is one of the head honchos at the company fighting to keep his sales execs from being layed off but going head to head with the President of his corporation (Craig T. Nelson), his best friend, lands him in the unemployment line. However, he's not worrying about money since he owns stocks in the company, but his guilt over his rich lifestyle and watching the other's lives crumble leaves him feeling powerless. He also soon butts heads with the head of Human Resources doing the firing who also happens to be his mistress (Maria Bello).
THE COMPANY MEN is a human story done well. Thanks to Michael Moore and countless other films and documentaries chronicling the crumbling economy and the effects on the working class, THE COMPANY MEN offers a different perspective. Director John Wells, best known for his work as a television producer, writer, and director for ER, West Wing, and Southland, crafts the multiple storylines very well without losing focus and uses the veteran actors to their fullest potential.
Ben Affleck is proving himself a great actor in dramatic roles such as last year's The Town and now with THE COMPANY MEN. As the Bobby character, Affleck clearly transforms from a cocky sales executive loving the good life to a vulnerable husband and father feeling the pressures of reality. Chris Cooper, as always, gives a heartfelt performance exemplified through his expressive facial features which leaves you feeling the pain along with him. Tommy Lee Jones, Maria Bello, Kevin Costner and Affleck's on screen wife Rosemarie DeWitt give exceptional performances as well.
The one complaint about THE COMPANY MEN is it's lack of perspective from a female's point of view. While the film's title suggests it's a men's world, you can't help but need that side of the story. In the background a female executive in the company joins the rank of unemployed alongside Affleck but her story is not told. The woman's perspective are told from the wives of these company men, some understanding and others selfish.
For some, like Michael Moore, the film will definitely have you feeling angry towards capitalism. In THE COMPANY MEN, Tommy Lee Jones is appalled that the company is showing off their multi-million dollar skyscraper under going construction when they have just cut half their sales staff. His suggestion that they sell the building to guarantee jobs gets him fired. In another instance, the company honchos mention cutting back in other areas such as healthcare but they refuse because that is the one sector making profits. THE COMPANY MEN hits on a personal level.
The finale of the film is a bit romanticized but the message is clear. America has to start with a clean slate and working people must come before profit margins.
THE COMPANY MEN is a must see and relevant to the times.