To say that The Company Men is a movie that doesn't have a blatant agenda and message behind it is the same thing as saying a Michael Moore movie is fair and balanced. The drama with an all-star cast of Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper (American Beauty, The Muppets) and Kevin Costner is a clever disguise for a scathing expose on the downsizing of corporate America. I know, that sounds dry and boring. Why should we care about a bunch of overpaid, privileged white collar guys that get thrown out on their asses by a corporation while the CEO continues to swim in money? Because everyone in America knows someone like this. This movie pumps in the same veins as 2009's Up in the Air with George Clooney. It holds a magnifying glass on a few characters to show what it's like to be laid off in your forties and fifties with a mortgage and family to support. Sure it's not the life-or-death problems that they face in third world countries or the epic drama depicted in war films; but for our times, this is as bad as it can get for some. It's the middle class nightmare that weighs on all of our minds. But no matter how important and real the plot for The Company Men is, the emotion that comes out of it is just scratching the surface. A cast was put together for this that has enough Oscar and Oscar nominations between them to choke a donkey, but director/writer John Wells (E.R., The West Wing) failed to get an Oscar-worthy performance out of any of them. The film felt clunky at times and was in need of a good oiling. That's an issue with a movie that features lots of characters with lots of story arcs that intersect. It's hard to keep them all straight and it's even harder to go into enough depth for each one to make us care. The closest we get to attachment is with Affleck's family man character who struggles putting his ego aside when he has trouble landing another white collar job and may have to take a blue collar one from his brother-in-law, who's played by Costner. Although it's hard to feel like you're walking through this mid-life disaster with these people that still doesn't make it boring. The movie moves very well and draws you in just enough. It could be that it's something most of us can relate to on one level or another that makes it, at the very least, a good film. Tommy Lee Jones plays his usual melancholy character that feels empathy for those around him and does a good job of showing it through his droopy eyes and limited but pertinent lines. The Company Men rises above most so far this year and stands among one of the better dramas of 2011 but failed to meet my expectations. The film might have been improved, ironically since it's about downsizing, by eliminating a few of the characters and focused on the ones that remained more; concentrating the drama and not spreading it out. But I guess that would be against what the film stands for, huh?
The Company Men (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: B