In the Company of Men

Year: 1997
Production Co: Fair and Square Productions
Director: Neil Labute
Writer: Neil Labute
Cast: Aaron Eckhart, Matt Molloy, Stacy Edwards
Neil Labute's calling card to a Hollywood career is a strange beast. It deals with a story that makes you expect a Hitchcockian twist at the last moment, but no - there's been no deception (apart from the one we're privy to). At least not the one we expect, when we discover Labure's been cheating on all of us, not just the female protagonist.

Chad (Eckhart) and Howard (Molloy) are thirtysomething executives who've both moved to a new city temporarily in order to set up a company project. It's never revealed where they are, who the company is or what the project entails, because Labute is more concerned with creating a snapshot of the modern white collar man in his natural environment.

Chad and Howard are a little different to most guys though (you'd hope) ; full of male angst and pent up rage (at least in Chad's case), they decide to exact revenge on the world that's emasculated them by targeting an innocent and vulnerable woman and pretending to be romantically interested in her so as to dump her when she's at her most fragile and has fallen for their ruse.

Their prey is pretty deaf secretary Christine (Edwards), and somewhat predictably, the more sensitive Howard gradually falls for her for real. You think Chad does too, but that's all I'll say for fear of giving it all away.

With a minimum of spectacle and a very theatrical approach, everything's in the dialogue. Labute accomplishes a very stark sense of realism, and the audience becomes a real fly on the wall watching modern men at work and play, a side they don't show women despite the age of equality.

But while it has a razor sharp script and direction, the story and its resolution are far more simplistic than you realise until you think about them later.

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