The world has been in economic shambles the last decade or so. Even in corporate America, there haven’t been enough bees producing honey or cows delivering milk, so to speak. As a result, factories and businesses close shop. And it isn’t just the blue collars getting affected. Even hot shot executives find their posts redundant. And huge companies end up downsizing, affecting thousands.
In John Wells’ “Company Men”, one such executive is Bobby (Ben Affleck) who loses the ship building arm of a powerful conglomerate. But he soon finds out that along with unemployment comes dispossession – not just of his home, his Porsche, his golf clubhouse membership - but of his dignity. When his brother-in-law Jack (Kevin Costner) offers him a job at the construction, he balks as he doesn’t see himself the “nail-pounding” type. Of course, he had to beg for the same job back later, but this uneasy predicament underlines the tuning up of the masculine ego. Several other characters share their stories in the film: Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones) is one of the co-founders of a billion dollar company who finds himself fired by the company’s owner - his college roommate and best friend; Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper) who, nearing 60, is likewise desperate for a job; Sally Wilcox (Maria Bello) is the relentless bearer of bad news (she’s tasked to fire people).
Despite a gloomy plot, the film (set in Boston), is far from being dour or melodramatic, thanks largely to a kinetic script that allows us to root for the characters on screen – and a great ensemble with solid performances. Though there is a tragic resonance somewhere in the narrative, the ultimate payback for our attention is the inspiring tale of perseverance, as well as the resilience of the human spirit to stand up from a hard fall. I am particularly surprised that director Wells finds a middle ground not to coat his parable with undue sentimentality. It allows us to comprehend these disparate situations better. Finally, we don’t always hold construction workers in high regard, but we should think again!
“Company Men” will make a great companion piece to George Clooney’s “Up In The Air”.
Ben Affleck's next project is a Terrence Mallick romantic drama with Rachel McAdams, Javier Bardem, Amanda Peet, Rachel Weisz and Barry Pepper.