Sometimes, being a great movie is not enough. Unfortunately, The Weinstein Company is so busy promoting the Oscar hopes of its other movies, Blue Valentine and The King's Speech, that The Company Menis like the forgotten, redheaded stepchild from Dad's first marriage that no one wants to talk about at Thanksgiving dinner. That leaves it to me to tell you to see it as soon as you can. The Company Men is one of the most underrated films you will ever see.
Ben "I just keep blowing up your illusions of how bad I was" Affleck stars as Bobby Walker - a hotshot salesman living a good life, in a big house, with fancy cars, until the company decides it needs to downsize to continue to prosper. Now, he's looking for a new job and working with his wife, Maggie (Rosemarie DeWitt) trying to figure out how to keep the bills paid, while those survivors left behind at work are wondering what will happen next and to whom.
Will Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones) be able to convince lifelong pal and boss James Salinger (Craig T. Nelson) to take a different course of action?
Will Bobby's boss, Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper), be next?
The Company Men hits so hard because it doesn't try too hard. Writer/director John Wells must have lost a job somewhere along the way, because he shows the ultimate comprehension of how it effects the unemployed person from losing possessions to losing self-confidence to attempts to hide the truth from those who are close to you, and more.
Wells doesn't present each major moment like a major moment. Bobby falls into a path, which seems to have its own course. We understand and sympathize with each heartbreaking turn of events. Sure, Wells inserts a bit of melodrama and do-gooder mentality into some of the characters, especially as Gene waxes on and tries to fight for the employees in the face of modern day corporate greed and shortsightedness, but we all have to have heroes, even if they are tilting at windmills. And, we might not need all of the personal drama in Gene's life that is inserted into the film, but it adds some flavor to a movie that is all about today's workforce and the machinations of the modern corporation.
Of course, The Company Men benefits from an amazingly talented cast. Affleck is a wonderfully sympathetic and recognizable figure as the man who has had it all taken away from him, and shows us the pain, frustration, anger, fear and the excitement when it might all be at your finger tips, again. Cooper is underutilized as the guy left behind to do the work of many as the others are given their walking papers,
Jones, in some ways, becomes the voice of the everyman, but his best moments come out in verbal battles and discussions between Gene and James. Both make you believe they have been friends from the beginning and have their own justifiable reasons to feel betrayed. Thankfully, Wells gives each some dignity and reasons to believe he is right, so it doesn't become some strawman argument.
While we do get an overly rosy ending for what has been presented, The Company Men is a movie about its times. It is the scary tale of what we have become and where we are going.
4 Waffles (Out of 4)
The Company Men is rated R for language and brief nudity.