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|The Company Men
dir-scr John Wells
prd Claire Rudnick Polstein, Paula Weinstein, John Wells
with Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper, Rosemarie DeWitt, Maria Bello, Kevin Costner, Craig T Nelson, Eamonn Walker, Tom Kemp, Nancy Villone, Anthony O'Leary, Angela Rezza
release US 21.Jan.11, UK 11.Mar.11
10/US Weinstein 1h44
Do the right thing: Affleck and Jones
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
CANNES FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
Strangely sidelined during awards season, this downsizing drama might be a bit downbeat, but it's sharply observant and extremely well-played by an impressive cast. It also says some very important things about the effects of capitalism.
Bobby Walker (Affleck) is a high-flying shipping executive stunned when he's fired after 12 years on the job. Company founder Gene (Jones) is furious at the CEO (Nelson) for sacrificing thousands of employees to guarantee bigger profits for stockholders and executives. And his 30-year-veteran colleague Phil (Cooper) is worried that he might get the chop in the next wave of cuts. While Bobby struggles to accept his unemployment, his wife (DeWitt) is more realistic, suggesting that Bobby take a job with her builder brother (Costner) to tide them over.
The film vividly captures the current zeitgeist; set in 2008, the attitude reflects the growing gloom over the past three years. There are some very dark moments in this story, shown without any sentimentality at all. The grim truth is that, in this economic climate, anyone unemployed over age 30 is unlikely to find an equivalent replacement job. So the only false notes are writer-director Wells' attempts to spin a more hopeful perspective.
Even though the film is relatively superficial (depicting but never addressing the real strain unemployment would put on marriage, for example), the actors create vividly authentic characters. Cooper and Jones are men from a different era in which employer-employee loyalty went two ways: a job was for life and staff welfare was just as important as the bottom line. Their open disbelief sits in stark contrast to Nelson's more pragmatic corporate ruthlessness, Bello's cool efficiency (as the personnel officer) or Affleck's denial, anger, guilt and desperation.
Wells conveys all of this with an unfussy filmmaking style that contrasts cold workplace surfaces with introspective emotion. In many ways, this is like an elegy for a lost element of humanity. Even though there are still principled employers out there, it's haunting and often horrifying to think that this is the system we are passing on to our children. And no amount of gentle optimism in the film's script can paper over that fact. Sundance/Cannes
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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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