Movie Review: The Company Men (2011)

| 10 March , 2011 | Reply

Keeva Stratton, Quip Creative

Directed by: John Wells
Starring: Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper and Kevin Costner

The Company Men gives a human face to corporate downsizing and the global financial crisis. A young salesman, Bobby Walker (Affleck), has acquired all the accoutrements of success—great job, beautiful family, nice car in the garage—when suddenly the rug is pulled from under him, as he is let go without warning from GTX, one of the world’s largest manufacturing conglomerates. He soon discovers he is not alone, and that the competition for jobs in a market that is collapsing by the day is near impossible.

Having been forcibly parted from his upper middle class life of Porches, golf clubs and a mansion in the suburbs, Walker has no option but to accept the generosity of his parents and big-hearted brother-in-law (Costner), as he and his family move into his parents\’ spare room, and as he takes a carpentry job with his blue-collar in-law.

Left shattered by his loss of status, identity, and ability to support his family, Walker is one of thousands of men and women whose livelihoods were sacrificed to maintain artificially enhanced share and stock values of these large corporations. At 37, Walker still has time to rebuild his life, unlike his co-worker Phil Woodward (Cooper), who is also let go—and for Phil, at sixty years of age with his shares in collapse, there seems to be no possible recovery. The film also tells the story of Gene McClary (Jones), the number two at the conglomerate, who becomes increasingly disheartened and disenchanted with the direction his company has taken.

The global financial crisis has destroyed so many lives, and provoked wide-ranging criticisms of the flaws in the capitalist system—The Company Men finds a way to bring this destruction to the screen that will inspire both empathy and disbelief in equal measure. The film highlights the pitfalls of mass consumerism and high debit living, which really do have you skating on thin ice, even if your vehicle of choice is the latest European convertible.

Much like a fable about greed, the film depicts the harsh coming down to earth and hopelessness of lives that have been heavily dependent on ‘the company\’—relationships that soon appear as uncertain as the stock market itself. It would seem that 30 years of company devotion means little when share prices are at threat.

The dark side of this story concerns the obscene greed of the CEOs who—despite cutting staff by the thousands, and therefore destroying the lives of many thousands of working people—manage to maintain their profiteering as well as their luxury jet setting ways. The bright side of the story addresses the perseverance of the human spirit, as the film follows the travails of men who are forced to redefine their lives and are propelled into attempts to reconnect with the things that matter most in life.

Although built around a grim and harsh reality, and no doubt one that will be close to home for many viewers, The Company Men is worth the price of entry to see the nuanced and powerful performances offered by a stellar ensemble cast.

The film is in cinemas now.

Keeva

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