The Company Men

20 Dec

Title: The Company Men
John Wells
John Wells
Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, Maria Bello, Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Rosemarie DeWitt, Craig T. Nelson
MPAA Rating:
R, language and brief nudity
109 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating:
Rotten Tomatoes:

What a good film The Company Men turned out to be, one that obviously resonates deeply in our current times, and one that has seriously terrific performances from everyone involved. It’s a devastatingly honest look at the effect that losing a job can have on grown men, and a really accurate portrayal of today’s economic climate and the consequences these huge amount of lay-offs can have, and how it tackles its very big and important subject is impeccable. And, again, the performances here are just amazing.

I guess in many ways one could look at The Company Men as some sort of companion piece to last year’s Up in the Air, which was far and out my favorite film of all 2009. In that film we also got to look  at the impact that downsizing had on those who lived for their jobs, and considered themselves, in many ways, unable to do anything else for a living. And I call it a companion piece because while in Up in the Air we had the vantage point of George Clooney’s character, who was the man in charge of making the cuts, here in The Company Men we don’t have any vantage point, those feelings shown by the people Mr. Clooney’s character was laying off, the anger, the fear, the confusion are the basis for this film. We look at the effects straight from the men who experience it, and it’s just as enthralling.

And it’s really captivating because we really do get a deeper look at that point I made earlier. In Up in the Air we saw how many of the people who were fired responded with some variation of “What will I do now?”, these were people who were defined by their job, and as such thought themselves to now lack a definition or a meaning. And in The Company Men we get a look at exactly what it is they “do now”. And it’s a very realistic look, catapulted to further amazingness by extraordinary performances by Ben Affleck (who’s having a tremendous year), Tommy Lee Jones and Chris Cooper, who play a trio of corporate executives for a Boston company who all of sudden find themselves not knowing exactly what the hell to do with their lives.

These three are the men we focus on the most, Mr. Affleck’s character Bobby, lives a very comfortable life in a big house with his wife, who’s played by the awesome Rosemarie DeWitt, and kids. He’s a climber in the corporate world, very confident in his abilities, and yet he’s cut from the payroll, not because he wasn’t doing his job well, but because, you know, costs needed to be cut somewhere.

And then there’s Mr. Cooper’s character, Phil, a man who has been in the company for three decades and in that span worked his way up from a low-paying job to an executive position. Mr. Cooper is a tremendous actor, he just never really seems to disappoint, and here he’s at it again, giving a heart-wrenching performance as a man who feels like his life is over, and just looses it.

As for the character Mr. Jones plays, Gene, his firing is the one that stings the most to watch. He was there since the company was founded, his job performance is good, and he’s actually an advocate against downsizing. And yet he’s also let loose, by his best friend, who’s a chief executive for the business and who has been with Gene since they were there at the company’s foundation and who makes millions a year. That’s a message this film doesn’t shy away from telling, that in a business world, longevity and friendship usually amount to pretty much nothing.

This is the trio we follow as they are laid off. And there are also many other great supporting turns here, Ms. DeWitt as I said is splendid as always as Bobby’s wife. There’ also Craig T. Nelson, who plays the top chief executive who was Gene’s friend and then coldly agreed to fire him. And then there’s Kevin Costner as Jack, Bobby’s blue-collar brother-in-law who runs a struggling construction business in which he offers Bobby a job, and I thought Mr. Costner was seriously great here, giving one of the best performances of his career, representing the guy who stood by his family, offering Bobby a job even though Bobby clearly wasn’t a fan and wasn’t really a good carpenter.

This marks John Wells feature-film debut, and he really does a great job at it, directing from a script he wrote himself, and he masterfully shows the insides of the corporate world and he manages to balance to perfection the bleak outlook with some hope, without ever really giving way into clichéd sentimentality. This is just one thoroughly engrossing film, one that invites us into the lives of some well-doing corporate guys who’s huge world suddenly comes crumbling down on top of them, and with such pitch-perfect performances it’s all just amazing to watch.

Grade: A-


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