Reel Critics: A movie well-themed for today's times

How was your day, dear?

Few movies are as timely as "The Company Men," which follows the lives of three corporate masters of the universe (Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, Tommy Lee Jones) after they are abruptly downsized by the same company.

After years of service and hard work, they realize they have become just a name on a list, liabilities to the bottom line. Sadly, it's the way of the world these days.

Being recently downsized myself, this movie struck a chord in its depiction of one's reactions to the loss of one's livelihood: shock, denial, anger and finally, acceptance. And the "benefits" offered by the company can be disheartening: outplacement centers try to boost morale but are better at giving you a harsh dose of reality. Jobs may be out there, but don't count on the same salary, or if they are — they're for someone younger.

Having a job defines us — it gives value and purpose to your day. It should only be a part of who we are, but when it's gone and not by your choice, it pulls you off balance. Once confident in your destiny and your abilities, now you must face possible rejection and economic uncertainty.

As one character says, it's odd to realize the world just kept turning; it didn't stop for us.

"Company Men" is graced with strong performances and sends a quiet message about finding what's really valuable in life, what you really love doing, and making it work for you.


Just friends … with benefits?

Director Ivan Reitman struck cinematic gold with "Ghostbusters." He continued his success with many lightweight comedies including "Kindergarten Cop" and "Meatballs." He now tries his at hand at R-rated romantic comedy with Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher starring in "No Strings Attached."

The theme of "friends with benefits" hooking up will be familiar to young adults everywhere. It makes "No Strings Attached" look like a 21st-century version of "When Harry Met Sally." But more than 20 years separate the two films. The cultural changes that transpired are reflected in the more raunchy edge apparent in the new effort.

To his credit, Reitman draws out the best of both stars in their roles. Portman is the aloof professional wanting hot sex without any real romance. Kutcher starts out as her willing stud muffin.

But he soon becomes the one wanting something more. It all ends up in predictable Hollywood territory. But there are interesting twists in the plot that will amuse and entertain as the story unfolds. It's not great, but it's a cut above average for this genre.

SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa.

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator.

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