Review: The Company Men
The Company Men is a movie you want to see if you want to see Hollywood superstars portray the plight of the common man. No matter how hard you’ve had it during the economic crisis, it’s got to make you feel better that Ben Affleck, or at least a character he’s portraying, knows what you’re going through.
Bobby Walker (Affleck) gets laid off in a round of corporate downsizing. While he deals with the humiliating routine of job hunting, Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones) tries to stick it to the man from the inside. Gene was Bobby’s boss and he thinks it’s wrong what the CEO James Salinger (Craig T. Nelson) is doing but his noble values are lost on the money men.
It may sound like I’m being facetious about Ben Affleck representing the common man’s drama. I actually think that’s classic Hollywood. Show us our best and put him through the worst so we know he can come out the other side. Sharp dialogue represents all the emotions and points of view one can have in that situation. We need the Ben Afflecks of the world to whittle these themes down to palatable entrees.
How Bobby and his wife Maggie (Rosemarie DeWitt) react to the situation is human. So, it’s not smart. They try to keep acting the same in a different world. They don’t adjust to the new situation. Bobby keeps spending and trying to ride on confidence. Maggie tries to keep it a secret and hope this goes away soon. I know it’s hard, but avoiding the sacrifices doesn’t work.
For the first part of the movie you see how people just don’t react to each other. Bobbie and Maggie defend themselves and talk at each other. Bobby just has to cling to his lifestyle and Maggie just can’t explain why scaling back could be supportive and not scary. Right or wrong, it’s good drama. It shows some hard questions not getting asked because they’re just too scary. Then when it’s too late, it’s even scarier to face them.
It’s still a mellow movie. It’s not too heavy. This isn’t medicine. It’s just provocative and sympathetic. The characters ultimately make some interesting decisions and surprising alliances. The resolution is ultimately humbling, in a good way. We should examine what we take for granted. The moment Bobby finally realizes what his children need from him should impact all viewers, whether they’re parents or just caring people. Written and directed by John Wells, The Company Men does remind me of the sort of direct, relatable drama he packed into episodes of ER.
Along the way, little moments resonate. The frustrations of a qualified executive stuck in a hackneyed employment are embarrassing to the whole corporate structure. Watching Bobby face insulting and demeaning offers is infuriating. Pride is a huge issue but there’s humor in his angry reactions. It’s cathartic, but still sad. He’s just angry and helpless. Telling someone off doesn’t take any power back.
The corporate side is a very strong counterpoint to Bobby’s story. Gene’s efforts are valiant and it puts a face to the frustrations at an executive level too. His life isn’t great just because he’s still employed, but there’s also only so much he can do. It’s a complicated machine, and the film puts it in simple human terms, but they’re still valid. Salinger’s plan to maintain his stock value while devaluing the company is pretty noteworthy. It certainly doesn’t invalidate my distrust for the relative value of stock investments.
In conclusion, I have it good. I get to be an entertainment journalist. I sympathize for people who have the circumstances portrayed in The Company Men. I hope my review represents you well.