The Company Men: Compellingly Told—Movie

The Company Men, written and directed by John Wells, gives a very realistic portrayal of what it’s like to be laid off, how people react differently to being down-sized and the impact those circumstances have on one’s family. That such a depressing subject can hold your interest from beginning to end is a testament to good writing, directing and a terrific ensemble cast.

Set in New England during the financial havoc of 2008, The Company Men revolves primarily around three men of varying ages. Ben Affleck tops the bill as Bobby Walker, a high-flying sales executive for GTX, a company with roots in shipping, now a conglomerate of some sort. He becomes part of a large group of  GTX employees recently down-sized. For Bobby the news comes as a complete shock and he doesn’t take the news well. Affleck does a fantastic job of portraying Bobby’s anger and his long bout of denial. His character just assumes that his unemployment will come to an early end. That his way of life has changed for the forseeable future finally sinks in when Bobby’s down-to-earth wife, Maggie (Rosemarie DeWitt), cancels his country club membership, forcing him to face the reality of his situation.  Running out of severance, Bobby reluctantly accepts the construction job offer from his blue-collar brother-in-law, Jack Dolan, played terrifically by a completely unglamorized Kevin Costner. 

Down-sized right after Walker is middle-aged co-worker Phil Woodard, acted to melancholy perfection by Chris Cooper. Tommy Lee Jones rounds out the GTX threesome as Gene McClary, long-time friend of GTX founder, James Salinger (Craig T. Nelson), as well as a long-time company employee.

The Company Men is the flip side of 2009’s Up in the Air. At first you might wonder how the layoff of highly paid white men can resonate with the average person, but then you realize that a layoff is a layoff and it’s all relative. Company Men shows perfectly the angst of unreturned phone calls, the frustration of being one of hundreds turning out for a single job and the humiliation of not being able to provide for one’s family in the style to which everyone has become accustomed. Is the movie without flaws? No. Accents come and go; the ending might be a tad too pat; and I don’t know anyone, myself included, who leaves a job after a long tenure with just one box. But The Company Men is a story compellingly told, fabulously acted and well worth your time.

3 nuggets out of 4

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