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The Company Men (2011)

January 21, 2011


Written by: John Wells

Produced by: Claire Rudnick Polstein, Paula Weinstein, and John Wells

Directed by: John Wells

Rated R for language and brief nudity

109 min.

U.S. Release Date: January 21, 2011

In the recent tough times of the U.S. economical downturn, many people have been on the giving or receiving end of a lost job, where neither giving nor taking are very appealing.  John Wells’ new film The Company Men follows several men from the same corporation who go through several major waves of downsizing and how they deal with it in their professional and personal lives.  Traditionally, a writer and director for TV movies and series, Wells makes his foray into the independent film world to write, direct, and produce this film, which premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.  Based on the loose description of The Company Men, you envision the film focusing in on everyday workers who face a downsizing, but instead, this movie centers around three very wealthy men who have exorbitant salaries (the least wealthy makes six figures), nice cars, 12-week severance agreements, and even huge stock holdings in their company.  Though nearly the whole world can sympathize with the recent plummeting of the global economy, can audiences identify with these white-collar fat cats enough to engage in their journeys?




The GTX Corporation, a colossal corporation headed by CEO James Salinger (Craig T. Nelson), is struggling to improve their balance sheet and is losing favor in the eyes of the stockholders.  GTX decides to widely cut jobs, and thousands of employees will be affected, Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) being one of them. Bobby is a director-level worker at GTX and makes $120,000 a year.  He has a lovely house, a Porsche, and a wife and two kids.  Throughout the film, Bobby learns the consequences of unemployment, and not only does he have to change many aspects of his lifestyle, but he also has to combat the inner turmoil of losing his security blanket and relying on others for support.  In addition to Walker’s story, Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones) and Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper) are two corporate big-wigs that go through a similar journey as Bobby Walker, but deal with it in different ways.


To address the initial question posed above, the prime flaw of The Company Men is that the main characters going through this hardship are those of great wealth and, for the most part, possess serious moral shortcomings.  Bobby, Gene, and Phil are all used to a lavish lifestyle and settle for nothing but the best.  As a viewer, it is extremely difficult to sympathize with characters that are filled with such entitlement and hubris.  When certain characters, in the wake of a crisis such as losing a job, are more upset about the loss of their sports car than the prospective unraveling of their lives and families, it is a tough proposition to try and get us commoners to root for the betterment of these people.



That said, the acting is pretty well executed, Affleck especially, but the writing leaves much to be desired.  Affleck’s character’s story arch is certainly the most compelling of the three main characters’, as the most time is spent on his development, but he also goes through the broadest spectrum of emotions and responses.


After spending many years in the television world, spanning over many projects, John Wells still has a ways to go in the way of long form screenwriting and weaving multiple story arches together within one film.  Though one of the storylines in The Company Men is very effective and flushed out, the rest leaves quite a bit to be desired.



If you are a fan of Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, or Chris Cooper, or corporate world drama, you will probably enjoy this movie to a degree, though the characters’ moral deficiencies might irk you a bit.  Among the typical January drivel, however, The Company Men might appear as an elevated piece of cinema to some.  If you’re a little foggy on your prospects of seeing this one, take a peek at the trailer and go with your gut.



Rating: **1/2


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