The Company Men
by George Sax
The Company Men
John Wells’ The Company Men attempts to offer a sympathetic and very timely dramatic depiction of the plight of Americans who have lost their livelihoods during the current widespread economic difficulties. The men of the title are three executives at a Northeast conglomerate that grew out of a shipbuilding concern. The company’s stock is being hammered because of the shrinking market for its products and it’s becoming vulnerable to a takeover by a marauding investor. Inevitably, this results in the closing of divisions and personnel layoffs.
The first to go is a breezily self-confident, youngish sales manager (Ben Affleck) who comes to work one day and finds he’s redundant. And then he finds he’s unwanted on the job market, MBA and all. And 37 doesn’t seem so young anymore.
Watching with growing dismay and anger is Gene (Tommy Lee Jones), a vice-president in charge of the shipbuilding division and a company founder. His dissenting posture costs him his position despite his stature. Chris Cooper’s self-made sales executive is let go as conditions worsen and because he’s getting old. (During an executive meeting, Gene notes dryly that his colleagues seem to be sprinkling just enough younger employees in the layoff lists to avoid getting nailed on charges of age discrimination.)
The Company Men is earnestly measured in its obvious disapproval and reasonably intelligent. And its performances are skilled. For all its relevance, there’s a certain subsidiary sense that it’s a throwback to 1950s business world dramas (Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, Executive Suite). And Jones’ character seems to have been written by Wells after he watched William Holden in Sidney Lumet and Paddy Chayefsky’s strident 1970s movie satire on television, Network.
Some of Wells’ social observations and personal incidents are spot-on, and he’s obviously put his film together with care, but you may wish he’d made it more compelling and spirited at times. It’s probably worth noting that the movie concentrates on the executive suite, not on any of the thousands of working stiffs who disappear in the corporate carnage.
Watch the trailer for The Company Men
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Issue Navigation> Issue Index > v10n6 (Valentine's Day Issue, week of Thursday, Feb. 2) > Film Reviews > The Company Men
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