Movie Review Rewind: The Company Men (2010)
The Company Men puts us back into the recession of last year when millions of people became unemployed. Director John Wells uses the setting of one company and its employees to get across a universal message about how losing your job affects everything around you: your family, your lifestyle, your community, and your own self-worth and confidence. This film is as relevant as ever and it will definitely hit close to home for a lot of people. At the same time, the film is sentimental and gives you reassurance that things can and will get better. Wells knows this subject can be depressing so he throws in humor and an amazing cast to sweeten things up.
Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck), Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones), and Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper) all work for the GTX Corporation and slowly but surely, one by one will end up being let go. Bobby is a young, successful salesman who was climbing the ladder pretty fast. Phil is a veteran at the company who has been there for decades and this is all he knows. Gene was GTX’s first employee and has been there since the beginning. He was there when GTX was just a small business being ran out of a shipyard with the help of his best friend and now the CEO of GTX, James Salinger (Craig T. Nelson). But even Gene is not safe from the recession or being fired by his best friend.
The central focus of the film is seeing how losing their job affects these men and their sense of living. Bobby and his wife Maggie (Rosemarie DeWitt) have to make sacrifices for their family and this includes getting rid of his Porsche and selling their house. Phil is not in his 30’s or 40’s anymore. He is an old man playing a young man’s game now. The world and the job place has changed since he started at GTX.
Gene is the only one who does not need the money because he has enough to live on for the rest of his life. But he was the one who tried to fight for Bobby and Phil’s jobs and carries a guilty conscience for the people who were cut. He actually shows remorse and that he cares about his employees, and that is rare. All three of these men have something to overcome. They have try to survive in a world that is unforgiving. And it is up to them whether they decide to get back up and keep fighting, to move on and start over, or to simply give up.
The Company Men has one hell of a cast. Affleck has been on a roll and he gives a strong performance as Walker. He feels ashamed of himself and feels like he has failed his family as a man. At first, he wants to appear to be successful even though he has no job at all. This means keeping the big house, fancy car, and playing golf at the country club. He doesn’t even want any one else to know besides him and Maggie, especially her brother Jack (Kevin Costner). But Bobby soon realizes that none of this is possible and he actually ends up working for Jack just to make ends meet.
Cooper does a great job being the character who is scared of competing with what is out there. He has been at the same place for years and years, and now he has been thrown back out on the street and is like a lost puppy. His loyalty got him nowhere and now he has aged and what companies are looking for, he isn’t it. And its tough to hear that you are not needed anymore because you are too old.
Then we have Jones who has the most complex character because he had a lot of power at the company and could have gone along with his friend and just be thankful he had a job. But he felt bad for what was happening and wanted to do something about it but could not. And he saw where GTX was going and stood up against it. Whether you are friends with the owner or not, when it comes to business, you have no friends and Gene found that out.
It just wasn’t the guys who delivered in this film. Maria Bello plays a woman who is doing the cutting at GTX while sleeping with Jones’ character. She understands what is going on and is holding on to anything she can before it is her turn to become unemployed. Bello is a good actress (she is excellent in Thank You for Smoking and The Cooler), but she is underused in this and there are no strong qualities in her character. However, DeWitt takes her character as the wife of Bobby far beyond the call of duty. She understands the shame and pain her husband feels, but also reminds him this just isn’t affecting him. It is taking a toll on the entire family.
DeWitt shows confidence and sincerity by being a supportive wife and a concerned mother. She is Bobby’s support and she won’t let him forget it. This character could have been one-dimensional, but DeWitt gave her a heart and soul. She makes the audience remember the effects of what losing a job can do to those who share a life with those who do work for a company.
The Company Men has its flaws and cliches, but it manages to put a face and a story with the problems this country is facing right now. The recession has affected so many already and there will be more. And Wells wanted to show what I am sure some families are going through right now. It is not an easy thing to go through and we all hope things will get better. Until they do, we have to appreciate what we do have and get our priorities back in order.
These men forgot those things while they were secure in their jobs and living the lavish lifestyle. But they got reminded real quick. This film reminds us all about how fragile we can be, but how persevering and tough we are willing to be when time calls for it.
Brandon Vick is a member of The Music City Film Critics’ Association, the resident film critic of the SoBros Network, and the star of The Vick’s Flicks Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @SirBrandonV and be sure to search #VicksFlicks for all of his latest movie reviews.