The Company Men
Sometimes a movie hits a little too close to home and THE COMPANY MEN is going to be one such movie for hundreds of thousands of Americans that lost their jobs over the past couple of years. I myself had the unfortunate experience of finding another job and although I didn’t suffer the way many people have, it was enough to make watching THE COMPANY MEN uncomfortable. Anyone that has ever traveled for an interview can relate to Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) not being able to sleep, then getting up early and getting dressed, only to sit in an empty motel room and wait for his interview. Little things like that permeate throughout the film as director John Wells really managed to tap into the pain that comes with losing your job and the struggle you go through to find another one.
The film follows three men as they deal with the economic downturn and the subsequent corporate downsizing that came with it. Bobby Walker is a top salesman working for GTX and he shows up to work only to find out he has been laid off due to “redundancies”. His boss is Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones), one of the founders of the company and seemingly immune from cutbacks. Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper) is another highly paid employee that worked himself up from mechanic to executive. Although Gene and Phil were lucky to avoid the first round of cuts, neither survived the second. All the while, their CEO (Craig T. Nelson) is throwing money away on a new building and continuing to collect huge paychecks. Like I said, this all hits too close to home if you ask me.
Although the film follows Bobby, Phil and Gene as they deal with their challenges, the primary focus is on Bobby, who struggles to find another job and has to go through the normal chain of events that comes with losing your income. He has to sell his Porsche, sell his house, move in with his parents and work for his brother in-law. His situation is easier to relate to as Gene had more than enough stock and money saved to have any financial worries. Phil, however, was not so lucky and given his age, he was left feeling hopeless when it came to finding another job. Without a comfortable savings and with an unsupportive wife, Phil represented the beat down portion of the unemployed.
THE COMPANY MEN was tough to watch at times and at others it felt like watching CNN, but overall the story and performances were great. Ben Affleck has had a great year after starring in and directing THE TOWN and he gives another gritty performance here as Bobby. I even liked the small part from Kevin Costner, who did well as the hard working, blue-collar brother in-law that Bobby learns to respect. And I’ve never seen Tommy Lee Jones give a bad performance and this one was no exception.
Of course, there are many, many other aspects of unemployment that weren’t even touched on. They could have also worked a little more with the corporate guys not knowing the floor workers, which would have put things in perspective for them. It’s sad to trade in your Porsche for a Ford Focus, but it’s even sadder to trade in your Ford Focus for nothing. Although what Bobby went through was rough, others have it much harder, which seemed to be lost on these characters. That’s going to prevent the film from resonating too close with general audiences. Perhaps shifting the focus from Phil to a floor mechanic would have covered the bases as far as the types of people hit by the recession.
Despite missing the opportunity to resonate with a larger part of the population, the part that it does hit will be moved by this film. It’s tough to read about people losing their jobs and seeing it is even worse. If you can relate to any of these characters, it will mean even more to you. Affleck, Jones and Cooper all give great performances that pull the film together and bring the story to life.