The Company Men
Starring Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper and Kevin Costner
Directed by John Wells
Rated R for language and brief nudity
Appropriate for ages 17+
On the surface, The Company Men revolves around the lives of three men (Affleck, Jones and Cooper) that are part of a corporate downsizing and the effect it has on their lives, their families and their communities. On a deeper level, the film focuses on the death of the American Dream and the impact it has on Americans.
George Clooney’s film Up in the Air touched on these issues, but followed the folks doing the layoffs rather than the people whose lives were so deeply affected. Just like the climate in today’s job market, the film is pretty devastating. It’s a reality check that will crush many of its viewers. After all, the film leaves three options for those who lose their cushy corporate jobs: retire, take a lower-paying job, or commit suicide. Is this overly dramatic? Sure. But it’s not off base completely. With the middle class growing weaker and the upper class growing stronger, the discrepancy of incomes is liable to cause our economic strains to become more pronounced rather than diminished. The thought of spending less and saving more is just that – a thought. That might work if incomes were increasing with inflation, but as health care premiums climb through the roof and the price of goods and services grow to simply put more money in the pockets of the wealthy, we are likely to see these scenarios played out again and again, and even worsen in the near future. So as far as story goes, it’s not a fun one to watch, but it is a reality that we all wish wasn’t real.
As for the performances, this huge ensemble of award winning actors all try their hardest to give their best in these roles. The characters are a bit over-the-top, as are the situations they are put in, but overall, it’s a well-acted piece.
Where I fault the film is something I touched on before: the movie is damned depressing. If you have ever lost your job in order to help a company’s stock performance, you will feel miserable watching this. And if you expect it to be the movie to lift your spirits on a feel-good note – you won’t get that here. Once again, this film is a reality check about our lost American dream and not about hope. Should the film have been about hope? Maybe that would be more helpful in today’s climate, but just like the filmmakers, I don’t think that would come off as authentic. My wish is that we can all watch this film in 20 years and remember what America was like back then and be thankful that it’s not that way anymore. Unfortunately, unless something very drastic occurs in the very near future to correct our path, this film may be remembered as a feel-good movie after all. B