The Company Men

Year: 2010
Studio: The Weinstein Company
Director: John Wells
Writer: John Wells
Cast: Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper, Craig T Nelson, Rosemarie DeWitt, Maria Bello, Kevin Costner

The positive response I had to this movie betrays my age and station in life. Domestic dramas are usually about women and their problems or kids who don't have to pay the bills, and we see contemporary men and their problems so seldom on screens.

No matter how much money they make, guys like Bobby (Affleck), Gene (Jones) and Phil (Cooper) just want to make their particular ends meet, but when the economy tanks and the axes start to fall, they all know their days are numbered – even Gene after he co-founded the company that's now a global shipbuilding manufacturer.

If you thought writer/director John Wells handled an ensemble well in August: Osage County, watch this film to see where he honed the craft. It's not very easy to remember what actually happened in the film from scene to scene because just like in real life, little of it is earth shattering and profound (at least on the outside). But you still get such a good, realistic sense of what each character goes through.

When the firings reach higher and higher up, each of the victims is left to deal with the consequences in his own way. For Bobby, it's having to schlep his way around degrading job placement services like he's a college graduate, being offered the pitiful salaries that are now standard. He also has to withstand the snideness of his builder father in law (Costner) a classic blue collar guy who considers any job not done with the hands pretend work.

As the savings dry up and the house value plummets and fights with his wife (DeWitt) and son become more commonplace, the economic reality Bobby's been doing his best to avoid starts to dawn on him. In very short order, he goes from having the cheque paying his country club fees bounce to living in his in-laws' spare bedroom.

For Phil, he doesn't realise the extent to which his job has become what he is rather than what he does, finding himself without a very identify when he's cut off, with tragic consequences.

Gene still thinks the company he helped start owes its employees something, but his Chairman and partner (Nelson) has embraced the new paradigm where a company exists only to cut costs, maximise shareholder profit and fire anyone it can to do so.

As each character moves through the year depicted in the film, it doesn't do anything more than show us the way the world is for them and millions like them throughout the industrialised world. The final hopeful coda isn't exactly tacked on, but it's only really there to provide a happy ending.

Few films are so completely encompassed by merely what appears on the screen, with so little subtext or histrionics. Just like the characters, some of us can ride out bad economic times with drive or luck, some of us just aren't built for it. I've just never seen it realised so honestly and with so little artifice in a movie before.

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