Take a look around you and if you throw a stone in any direction you are going to find someone who is struggling due to the current economic conditions. People all have their theories behind what is causing it. Some say the out of control spending, some say Obama, some say Bush repercussions and some say it is the greedy CEOs collecting their fat cat pay checks and delivering on the promises of profits to share holders. What it really comes down to is that America looks broken, and it shouldn’t come as any surprise a film focusing on the financial hardships of people didn’t fair too well in the box office.
The Company Men has all the components of an all star cast. It has Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper, Ben Affleck, Kevin Costner, Maria Bello and Craig T. Nelson all fighting for screen time. This cast of Hollywood hitters is put together to tell the tale of men who have given their hearts and souls to their work only to be let go in order to boost share holder profits in the downed economy. Now faced with the struggles of finding new work in a tough market, each of these men fight to overcome losing everything they have in the financial melt down.
The film focuses around Ben Affleck’s character who is let go from his job because the corporation feels that it is redundant. Suddenly, having lost his job in a company that had job security becomes a bitter reality and he is forced to face his troubles head on before his severance package runs out. His performance really reminded me of his “Oliver Trinkie” character in Kevin Smith’s Jersey Girl, a guy who has to accept that he has lost it all and winds up living with his parents and doing something he never thought he would be doing. Perhaps the similarities in character was why I wasn’t over or under whelmed by Affleck’s character, but instead just felt like this tale had played out before.
Chris Cooper does a very nice job as a side character who has worked his way up the corporate ladder from humble beginnings on the factory floor, only to be shoved out the door with early retirement. Along side his him is his best friend and co-founder of the company, played by Tommy Lee Jones, who does a nice job of playing the concerned business man who doesn’t agree with the top dog’s decisions to downsize. I for one have come to expect a solid performance from Cooper which he delivers time and time again, but his character arc in The Company Men isn’t really one to write home about. It’s bland and expected in a movie such as this. Tommy Lee Jones on the other hand, grows more tired and wrinkled by the day and this works well for his character. A man of few words, Jones delivers most of his performance in facial expressions and shows sometimes less is truly more.
Now I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the great Costner in this review as he just so happens to be one of my favorite actors. Costner really is a minor character in the film, playing Affleck’s brother in law who doesn’t necessarily get along with Affleck’s character. Costner’s character is a tradesman who is scraping by on what he has and trying to run a small business in a down economy and housing market. I had actually wished the film focused a bit more on his character not just because it was Costner, but because they had an opportunity to give a perspective into “the every man” and how he deals with the economic struggles. While the once corporate fat cats were upset about losing their jobs, houses and high salaries Costner’s character plugs on in middle class woes. He’s working 7 days a week and doing 18 hour days to make ends meet and to keep his staff employed. He sums it up wonderfully with a line that where he says, “Sometimes I’m up, sometimes I’m down. It all comes out in the end.” It’s a subtle, heart warming line that is overlooked but points out that while the big companies are about keeping their profit margins high, the little man is trying to make ends meet and keep his small business crews working. To them it’s not about the record profits, but instead it’s about making it through the economic times.
One of the reasons a film like The Company Men was a box office failure and was just shuffled out on DVD revolved around once again The Weinstein Company and their lack luster marketing. but that certainly isn’t the main culprit. Simply put, The Company Men revolves around real life. People look to movies to escape reality and films like The Company Men magnify the problems in the world today. Despite everything happening for a reason in the film, and everything working out in the end in some shape or form, the film is still one heck of a downer for all involved. But perhaps the biggest reason for this film’s lack of success was it’s characters. I found a very hard time feeling for these corporate executives who got axed. The financial woes of how they may lose their million dollar homes and might have to sell the porsche just didn’t resonate with me. The fact that they are being offered replacement jobs that are paying out more than what the average middle class worker makes and whining about it add into the equation. It’s not that the film makes you hate the characters, in fact you feel for them. But I somehow would have felt exponentially more saddened if Kevin Costner’s character had lost his business in the economy because he wasn’t driving the fancy cars, eating out at fancy restaurants and trying to keep up with the neighbors. He was just an honest working man, struggling to get by. –And who am I kidding, I just like Costner.
The point is, The Company Men is not a bad film. It’s got a great cast and a somewhat predictable story. It slipped under the radar most likely because it hits too close to home in the current times. Why would watch a movie about people getting fired for “cost cutting reasons” when you can witness it first hand in your office every day? The Company Men just has terrible timing and no marketing machine behind it. It’s why it is a film that is going to be quickly forgotten about; That is if anyone knew of its existence in the first place.