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The Company Men - Review

The Company Men

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

TIMELY, insightful and thought-provoking, John Wells’ The Company Men is a first rate unemployment drama that plays to the strengths of its excellent cast.

Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones and Chris Cooper play three men trying to survive corporate downsizing at their major company, which ultimately leaves each of them jobless.

Affleck’s Bobby Walker is the first to go, prompting the inevitable spot of self denial before he learns to re-adjust his expectations and put the needs of his family before his own ego.

Jones and Cooper belatedly follow and quickly learn that finding a job at their time in life, and with the expectation of their salary, is a mission impossible.

All three leads are on top form as the former corporate high-flyers forced to eat humble pie and re-evaluate their lives and careers to this point. Wells screenplay, meanwhile, offers genuine insight into the fear and fallout of the recent financial crisis and its effect on American landmark companies and businesses.

It’s not afraid to point the finger of blame at the root causes – the cavalier attitudes of big business who put luxury and profit before grass roots basics and figures ahead of produce. This is never better exemplified than in the various looks of disdain on Jones’ face as he observes the slow, gradual erosion of all that he holds dear… or the silent looks he gives his wife as she continues to spend on unnecessary excesses while the colleagues (and friends) around him continue to lose their jobs and homes.

If there’s a criticism surrounding Wells’ film, it perhaps lies in his decision to ask us to sympathise with a bunch of former high-flyers who dwell in lush mansions and drive fancy cars – but his actors work overtime to garner our sympathy and show that life can be just as brutal at the top end, as it is at grass roots level once everything has been taken away.

His screenplay benefits, too, from the decision to show the flaws in each character: in Affleck’s case a foolish sense of pride that prevents him from taking preventative measures sooner, or even accepting a job from his carpenter brother-in-law (an excellent, if under-used Kevin Costner).

Jones, meanwhile, is having an affair on the side and is perhaps a little too outspoken for his own good, while Cooper is firmly part of the ‘can’t say no’ society whose need to continue providing luxuries even when funds no longer allow provide him with little hope of ever emerging from his hole.

But if some plot beats are too simplistic or easily telegraphed, and Wells’ opts for an overly optimistic conclusion, the film as a whole works well as a convincing and often moving account of three men forced to start again.

Unattractive subject matter aside, The Company Men is highly recommended viewing, buoyed by a really great cast.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 104mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: August 1, 2011