I’m not sure if you were aware of this but the world’s financial markets crashed hard in the later part of 2008. Thousands upon thousands of people lost their jobs, their homes and their lives as they knew them. Two years later, the situation is on a reasonable mend but many are still without work and still losing their livelihoods. I don’t mean to make light of these difficult times; obviously, you were already aware of everything I just wrote. John Wells, one of the men behind the long-running television series, E.R. and the director of “The Company Men”, however, seems to just be joining the table with his first feature. The ensemble drama attempts to tackle the fallout from this economic crisis but only ends up playing out like a whiney reluctance to let go of America’s overinflated financial hay day.
“The Company Men” opens on Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck), strutting into his fancy office after playing a few rounds of golf before coming in. Little does he know, he is about to get canned. The company Bobby has worked for for 12 years, where he earns a salary of more than $120K plus incentives and bonuses, is downsizing in light of the crash. What follows this, is one overwrought termination cliché after another. Will Bobby be able to make his next mortgage payment? Will Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper) be able to send his child to an Ivy League university in the fall? Will that other random unemployed guy be able to find another job in his field or will he have to lower his expectations in order to make ends meet? And it doesn’t stop there either. Before the movie ends, some executives will feel great guilt over sacrificing people at the hands of the shareholders, while others will collect their bonuses despite massive layoffs. All that was missing was some suit caving under the pressure and killing himself. Oh wait, it has that too.
Wells clearly believes he is telling an important story and the men of “The Company Men” (also including Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Costner and Craig T. Nelson) do their best to make the plights feel real, but the truth of it is that the problems they face are those of people who were already privileged to begin with. No one here has to face homelessness or hunger. No, everyone here has their savings to fall back on. Everyone here had a great job to start with, which gives them an advantage over all the other people who were already struggling to begin with, when they lost their jobs. All spending time in the company of these men accomplishes, as they lament the good old days when they used money for toilet paper, is the highly unsympathetic reminder that they were living way too large to begin with.
Review by Joseph Bélanger