Sunday, 2 September 2012

The Company Men

***
John Wells, writer of much quality TV (e.g. The West Wing, ER) directs this, his first feature. It is ably written, directed and acted, and certainly captures the zeitgeist.

A major corporation is laying off staff in droves. The successful Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) finds himself out of a job and struggles to find anything new. Another big hitter, Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper) falls victim to the cuts at an age where you don’t want to be looking for work. This radical downsizing occurrs while much unnecessary expense is laid out elsewhere. Big cheese Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones) rails against this putting his own job at risk.

Tommy Lee Jones is at his most fantastically curmudgeonly, and with good reason. The company he helped build no longer has any scruples. When the chips are down he’s just the kind of no-nonsense grumpy old man you’d want on your side. It’s a quality cast. Cooper displays a marked vulnerability. Mario Bello’s character has the unenviable task of doing the sacking and manages to make the role human. Rosemarie DeWitt lends support as Bobby’s wife. Currently to be seen in Your Sister’s Sister, it’s good to see her featuring in a lot more roles this year. She is supremely talented, exudes a sparkling intelligence, and… ok, she’s a crush I’ve been nursing for some time. Regarding Kevin Costner - for an actor at whom there have been more than a few accusations of vanity he certainly seems happy to appear on the sidelines lately. (Here, as Bobby’s blue collar brother-in-law he barely features.) He’s been damn good in these smaller roles too. There’s not much to like about Affleck in this but that is due to the writing. Unattractively cocksure and disrespectful to all I would have liked to have seen him go through something a little more humbling than having to sell the Porsche (boo hoo).

Some of the scenes that are supposed to be of an uplifting nature and/or comedic are a little cringey and feel shoehorned in. (Pressure from the studio perhaps?) But luckily there aren’t too many of these moments. The director seems more concerned with the serious stuff, and he’s great at it too. The film is perhaps lacking a bit of heart but the corporate intrigue is exciting and earns it a very respectable three stars.

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