FILM RATING: 3.5 stars
The Company Men (2010) is a gripping 21st century drama about white collar men loosing their jobs and a part of themselves in our recent (and still current) Great Recession. This movie has been mostly overlooked, which is too bad, because this is a very good film that deserves to be seen. I can see why people wouldn’t want to see it, because it hits very close to home. But hopefully it will find its audience on Blu-ray and DVD. I saw it in the theater back in January when it was finally released after several postponements.
Screenwriter and first time feature film Director John Wells has crafted a movie that really speaks to me and my predicament these past 4 years…as I’m sure it does for millions of Americans. I for one escape into film not only to avoid the reality of my life and to be entertained, but also to find solace and sympathy in knowing that I’m not alone in what I’m experiencing or have experienced. There’s a cathartic healing that film brings my psyche and emotional soul when it powerfully connects its stories and characters to my own life’s journey. I can see I’m not alone. I know you know what I’m talking about. So I really don’t have to say anything more.
The story of The Company Men is simple: It follows the lives of 3 men who lose their jobs due to a failing economy. But they find out that their jobs were more than just jobs. As men, we have a built-in programming that we tend to define ourselves by our work, our titles, our income, our family, our accomplishments, and everything else that we do and get. What happens when all of that is taken away? Who are we then? And what do we do with our lives? How do we define ourselves without our work and our material belongings? What do we tell other people when they ask who we are and what we do? These are just some of the questions and ideas that The Company Men explores, but unfortunately doesn’t really answer the way I think it should have. One of my disappointments in The Company Men is how the movie spends 90% of its time showing us the intricate complexities, paradoxes and lack of answers for everything I’ve mentioned, but then rushes to wrap it all up into a nice, relatively happy Hollywood ending where everyone ultimately goes back to their original jobs in a new form. I’ve gone through pretty much all of the same experiences over the past 4 years as The Company Men do. I lost my job (as an Architect), which then turned into a feeling of losing my career since I couldn’t find another job in the same field for years. I lost most of, if not all, my income. I had to sell many of my belongings, face losing my home and everything that defined me, and discover who I really am in the face of real adversity. I’ve downsized to a quarter-sized lifestyle of my previous one. And it still hasn’t ended “happy” per se. I’m still not working again as an architect. I do believe things have worked out by me redefining myself and that I’m on a better foundation now than the shaky one I had built, ironically, as only an architect. But I don’t feel like The Company Men shows enough of that struggle and forced redefinition. Granted, my situation is unique to me, so maybe I’m too close to this story and not unbiased enough to evaluate it. Maybe most people will go back to what they were doing before. Hard to answer right now.
My point to this discussion is that what I really like about The Company Men is its willingness to look at these ideas and explore them from a number of points of view. Even if I don’t totally agree with how these ideas and characters get resolved in this movie. Anyone who has had to rethink things and redefined themselves due to the Great Recession, should find something in The Company Men that they can relate to. And I’m grateful that a film like this is out there for each of us to seek out, whether its now or in the future when things are good again or people are ready to look at these stories. Or maybe things will never go back to the way they were? We will see.
Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, and Tommy Lee Jones lead the fantastic ensemble cast here, which includes Kevin Costner, Maria Bello, and Craig T. Nelson. All of these actors bring their A-game to The Company Men and make it a very good study on character acting. I can see why they all signed on to this project…it was an opportunity to bite into some juicy dialogue and serious storytelling. If it weren’t for the subject matter, I think they would all be receiving more praise for their work here.
The filmmaking craft is solid in The Company Men, with good cinematography and production design, good editing, music that works for the most part to convey the film’s emotional content, and writing that works through most of the film in telling its story and keeping my interest. In a lesser year for film, The Company Men would probably have made my Top 10 movies of the year, but there were just too many very good 3.5 star films in 2010. I’ve got at least a dozen of them. The Company Men is one of that pack that should show up in your home theater at some point.