Movie of the Day – The Company Men

I think that we can all relate to the ideas that his film brings forward.  The notion of the looming possibility that we could be employed, happy, earning and supporting a family, or yourself if you are like me, one day and then losing it all the next.  I am sure that we all know someone, first or second hand, that is unemployed or laid off.  Hell I went through that myself not too long ago, but never to the severity that others have.  My experience was extremely mild but it still stung enough to get me to think about how relatively fleeting and toxic the economic climate is.  One day you are enjoying work and then get the call that the company is right-sizing (love those buzz words…not) and you are let go because the numbers for the new year need to look better or some other reason.  Some of my personal experiences are bleeding into this post, but then again this is my blog and can do what I want.

But while the subject of unemployment is documented in heartbreaking detail through documentaries and personal stories on countless news channels, we get the emotional story of three corporate executives who are also part of the economic downturn.  The sort of people who we might not sympathize with at first given their status, but their stories and struggles are universally the same as all those effected by the economic struggles.

Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) is living the American dream: great job, beautiful family, shiny Porsche in the garage. When corporate downsizing leaves him and co-workers Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper) and Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones) jobless, the three men are forced to re-define their lives as men, husbands, and fathers.

Bobby soon finds himself enduring enthusiastic life coaching, a job building houses for his brother-in-law (Kevin Costner) which does not play to his executive skill set, and perhaps the realization that there is more to life than chasing the bigger, better deal. With humor, pathos, and keen observation, writer-director John Wells (the creator of “ER”) introduces us to the new realities of American life. — (C) Weinstein

I can probably see the spiteful resentment that might come from watching this.  We are of course watching executives in big firms being downsized, seeing their saving, salary, comfortable lives all crumbling around them.  Some might take some sort of relish, furthering that dividing line between those that have and those who don’t.  It’s polarizing at first, having to hear about the woes that an affluent family man loses his country club status or Porsche or the loss of six figure income.  It’s the kind of protagonist that we might at first vilify and hate, but it’s a story of their lives and problems that resonate with us in the end.  Director and Writer John Wells crafts a topical story on the lives of three men affected by the unemployment issues and their stories are not that different from ours.

It is an amazing credit to the acting and writing in The Company Men.  Sure, middle and lower class peoples struggles are a bit more realistic to us as I am sure that the 1% isn’t reading my blog.  The upper echelon of society might live in a tax bracket higher than ours, but they also deal with mortgages, family issues, kids, college, loans and a litany of other, so-called, Middle/Lower Class struggles.  It’s this sort of view into the other side of life that gives us an emotional connection that is worked towards in this film.  We aren’t just immediately buying into the characters, but rather growing with their struggles and feeling their anguish in terms of employment struggles and coping with the societal impact that takes its toll.  Affleck, Jones, and Cooper all tell a sad tale of their predicament which is masterfully acted on their parts.  Each has a different issue to face with their recently unemployment.  Affleck deals with the effects of being a young man in the business world who can’t fully grasp the reality he lives in.  He has a wife, two kids, expensive lifestyle and lot of pride to lose when he realizes that finding that job isn’t easy for someone like him.  He has all the qualifications, but it’s just happening.  Affleck is incredible and easily one of the best parts of the film.  You can witness his rise and fall in pride and trying to just provide, but also that perseverance that makes him so likeable, rather than spiteful to the audience.  Chris Cooper is another standout with the grizzled, older generation of workers who find that they are just not employable anymore due to their age.  Security and prospects are little and Cooper carries all the emotions of the film through is weathered face with incredible pathos and grace.

The Company Men is as topical as a movie can get.  Sure, I think some people will have difficulty connecting with people who were once successful and this movie does go against the typical “rags to riches” story line in favor of the opposite.  It’s still an incredible strong story that dives into the issues at hand, but from a higher echelon of society.  The point is, which Wells covers wonderfully, is that the problems that people face with unemployment due to economic issues or business issues are universal.  We are all not immune to what happens in a recession or even being fired.  We all share the same life problems and it’s the stories of the film that covers that struggles and triumphant of those involved.  Beautifully acted and emotionally connecting, The Company Men is a strong film that gets at the heart of the personal, economic struggles.  You might not connect right away, but the representation of those lives have in some way, a personal connection to you.  For me, given my past issues, I found a bit of comfort in the film and embraced what it had to say.

*images via RottenTomatoes

About Nick
I am just another blogger putting his thoughts into a website. My love is movies so most of my musings will be movie related. I work as an online marketer for an advertising company and when I am not earning a paycheck, I moonlight as a vigilante film blogger.

2 Responses to Movie of the Day – The Company Men

  1. JustMeMike says:

    Nice work on this review Nick. I think the these are executives that lost their positions shouldn’t matter. This isn’t about jealousy or envy. Just because TLJ’s wife in the film buys a table that costs as much as my car doesn’t mean that sudden unemployment won’t be a problem for them.

    And if Bobby has to sell his Porsche and coincidentally has lost his membership at the Golf Country Club because they haven’t paid the dues shouldn’t result in any kind of scorn from us.

    As I said nice work in your review in discarding the economic differences between the well paid and less well paid. and placing the focus toward what is more important and that is that unemployment isn’t good for those who have just been pushed off the mountain of employment into the abyss of unemployment.

    I think that your reactions to the film are just what the filmmaker intended.


    • Nick says:

      See I think some people can’t see past that sort of thing. I mean we have this mentality in society that those in a higher position are the enemy and thus their misfortunes is some sort of weird cosmic karma that people crave. I think the use of executives allows for a stronger connection on a character level since we see these people who had everything, now have nothing, making their struggles stronger and humanizes the experience more.

      Some people might not see past that though and won’t connect with them. But the director does an amazing job at getting to the heart of the issue and showing us that it effects everyone, not just the middle or lower class.

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