The Company Men
The Company Men is a feel good film about 3 different characters dealing with downsizing at their company. Their family, lifestyles and self-worth all must go through drastic changes. The film’s cast is stacked; Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Costner, Craig T. Nelson and Maria Bello, but with no fault of their own, the film as a whole does not seem to hit emotionally. The film’s script takes no risks, which in the end, is what hurt it the most.
The Company Men starts off with Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) driving his Porsche into work. Interrupting him brag about how wonderful his round of golf was today at the country club, is news from his co-workers that he is losing his job. The news hits him as swiftly as it hits the viewer, without warning. He was the divisional sales leader for 12 years and making 120k plus benefits but as of today he is now unemployed.
The news of layoffs spread like wild fire in the office and Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper) feels like he is next. For fear of losing his job, he cowardly hides in another office. As Phil comes home his daughter greets him with news about a school trip to Italy and asks him if she can go. He hesitates with his answer, the reason is obvious, but he replies with, “of course sweetheart”. It was more than a subtle hint of foreshadowing.
Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones) finds out about the layoffs while away at an investors meeting. While he is not being let go, the workers underneath his position were laid off. He feels betrayed by his boss who is supposed to inform him of business decisions such as these. Making the situation even more difficult, is that his boss is; the owner of the company, his old college roommate and the best man at his wedding.
You can tell it was not easy for Bobby to break the news to his wife. His self-worth is completely depending on his luxurious life-style he has. This wife goes over the finances and knows that sacrifices will have to be made. For now she tells him to eat more meals at home but it’s not long before she brings up the suggestion of selling the house. Which he immediately rejects, saying it is not needed.
On one morning, Gene’s stock in the company earned him a 2 million dollar raise since the layoffs. Him along with the highest executives at the company are getting brand new offices with generous city views but you cannot help but notice Gene feeling bad about receiving these benefits.
Bobby’s brother-in-law Jack (Kevin Costner) is one of the last people to find out about him losing his job. This was done on purpose as Bobby has always enjoyed living a higher paid lifestyle than Jack’s middle-class one. Jack owns his own small construction company that builds houses. When Jack received the news about Bobby he offers him a job working for him. Bobby declines as he cannot see himself being a “working man”. After all, doing manual labor for a living does not help him retain his lifestyle status he wishes to keep.
The reality of cutting back finally sinks in when Bobby is thrown out of the country club before a round of golf. Although we knew the whole time, Bobby finally admits that he needs to look successful. He considers himself “a 37 year old unemployed loser that cannot support his family.” Sounds like he is going through a mid-life crisis.
Maybe hearing himself say that finally registered or maybe he realized that he needs to put his family’s well-being ahead of his own successful status, but he bites the bullet and sells his beloved Porsche. And as if that was not hard enough for him to do, he ends up doing something he never thought he would do. He asks Jack if he can have a job as a construction worker, he is now a working man.
Bobby had a lot of overcome. He was a father but never really showed it. He cared too much about what other people thought of him. Luckily, he was able to get past these hurdles. Something Gene and Phil might have to as well.
When I watched the trailer for this film, I guessed it would go something like this; man loses his job, has a mid-life crisis, goes on to do manual labor, overcomes his crisis, get offered big opportunity at end with him most likely turning it down because of the new leaf he turned over. The film did not stray very far from that, there were no big surprises in there.
This is John Wells first feature film as a director and it delivers a good message but I felt like it was a little too safe. Also it seemed like the direction at the end was a toss-up on whether or not Bobby was going to stick with Jack or not. It could have gone either way I think the way it went was the wrong one.
Although the script is a little sloppy, the acting was not. Ben Affleck proves that he can do more than just rom-coms. Chris Cooper should have had a stronger role because I felt he was the most powerful in the film. Tommy Lee Jones is fearless and witty. Kevin Costner depicts a hardworking man with true values and does it well.
The Company Men had more potential than it’s outcome. The list of big-named actors does not justify the textbook plot. Also, it was not nearly as emotionally driven as it could have been. The relevant timing of story and real-life recession of the economy was not a coincidence, but rather a smart marketing attempt for viewers to relate to.