The upper crust marches on in The Company Men, an exploration of life after downsizing and enterprise revisited in the new global economy. John Wells directs.
Three unemployed execs
Three men lose their six-figure jobs at conglomerate GTX in order to boost its stock price prior to a merger. Ben Affleck plays Bobby, a VP of Sales; Tommy Lee Jones plays Gene, a conflicted division chief, and Chris Cooper is Phil, a lifetime company man who began as a welder in its now-idle shipyard.
Cooper has been given the most moving role to play. His performance is stellar.
When Bobby loses his Porsche and his son returns his Game Boy, it’s tough to muster much sympathy for the characters at first.
Crisis as opportunity
Bobby discovers that there are no jobs available and his severance pay is running out. His top notch sales skills don’t matter. He keeps searching via an outplacement firm touting rah-rah career strategies.
Recreating himself, Bobby moves beyond “You are what you do.” Bobby and Gene redefine self-respect as they act boldly and honor their innate human value.
Bobby’s family digs in as his wife Maggie (feisty Rosemarie DeWitt) returns to part-time nursing and puts their pricey home on the market. He must swallow his pride and accept a construction job from his irritating brother-in-law Jack (Kevin Costner).
Middle class perspective
As a gruff, funny wise guy, Costner brings a refreshing middle class perspective into the film.
Phil struggles the most as an outplacement counselor advises him to dye his hair and remove “anything pre-1990” from his resume. Little is gained and much is lost in this strategy of erasing one’s past to appear younger.
Cooper’s stellar performance
Phil is devastated that he is unable to meet his daughter’s next tuition payment at Brown. In a poignant scene, he shouts and throws rocks at the glittering windows of corporate headquarters in the middle of the night.
Cooper highlights the dilemma of older Americans who still have much to contribute in an environment that does not value them.
Gene fills the emptiness of his existence in an affair with human resources downsizer Sally Wilcox (gutsy, sexy Maria Bello). He seems genuinely concerned about the hundreds who have been downsized, and has lost any feeling for his materialistic wife and their antique-filled mansion.
Meanwhile CEO James Salinger (Craig T. Nelson) who rakes in $22 million for himself as he shops for sleek new corporate offices. Bello’s Wilcox is a suave human resources executioner who claims she feels guilty.
Story delivers cliches
The Company Men doesn’t cover much new ground. George Clooney’s unforgettable performance in Up in the Air had more depth as his downsizing launched him on a powerful inward search. Another disappointment is the film’s choppy editing.
Cliches arise. Bobby discovers the gifts of quality time with his son as they shoot hoops on the driveway. “You have me,” Maggie reminds her despairing husband. Bobby admits that he’s relieved to be free of constant corporate fears and pressures.
As Gene and Bobby walk through a rusty, deserted shipyard, Gene begins to smell new opportunity. Success will mean starting all over again. (3 out of 5 stars)
If you liked The Company Men, you might enjoy: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.
The Company Men 2010 / R / 1 hour, 44 min
Cast Overview: Ben Affleck, Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper, Craig T. Nelson, Maria Bello, Rosemarie DeWitt, John Doman, Tonye Patano, Cady Huffman
Director: John Wells