The Company Men
This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 3rd July 2011
In these times of global financial strife, watching someone being made redundant may discomfit some viewers. There is no doubt The Company Men seeks to be a message for our times, hitting nerves and ensuring we empathise with its protagonists – a group of middle class, white, corporate men in America whose lives are adversely affected by the economic downturn. No boardroom fat-cats throwing themselves from penthouses, nor poor people suffering by having to take on a third or fourth job (we already know poor people are suffering, right?). This is about the everyman – and how he, too, is having a rough time.
Meet Bobby, the square-jawed Ben Affleck, who has an unconditionally supportive wife, great kids, and a beautiful house at stake. It’s hard to feel too sad as his Porsche gets repossessed, but we may at least spare a thought as he endures the humiliation of life coaching and knockbacks from job interviews. Perhaps he needs a good, honest day’s manual labour with his abrasive brother-in-law (Kevin Costner, thorn-in-side and our intended moral compass). Meanwhile, Tommy Lee Jones is taking solace in the arms of his nubile mistress, an example of male filmmaker wish fulfilment that makes his malaise difficult to appreciate.
This is an earnest film, about serious subject matter, and to its credit it tries to take a different path from much more enjoyable but frivolous fare such as Up in the Air and even Jerry Maguire. Say what you like about Tom Cruise, though – at least he has charisma. Affleck, Jones and the usually terrific Chris Cooper mope through this film with thinly disguised desperation, and the heavyweight cast is frequently undermined by a featherweight script. Others may like it, but it didn’t complete me.