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MOVIE REVIEW: The Company Men

An unbelievable look into downsizing

The Company Men

The Company Men

  • The Company Men
  • The Company Men
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In the commericals for this movie, they mention each member of the cast -- Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, Tommy Lee Jones, and Kevin Costner – followed by the words “Oscar winner.”

So…what is next? Mentioning the cinematographer that won the Oscar, or set designer? What about explanations for how they won their Oscars? Affleck won it for co-writing a great screenplay (Good Will Hunting), not for his acting prowess.

And with a cast like this -- yet another Affleck movie taking place in Boston -– why not a baseball film? Tommy Lee Jones and Chris Cooper as rival baseball managers. Kevin Costner as the former pitcher who has a gambling problem. Affleck as the veteran coming off an injury, trying to prove he still has something left in the tank.

Instead, we get this great cast (along with the very talented Mario Bello), doing a story about a huge ship building company that’s doing some downsizing.

All the stories involve how the laid off guys deal with their new lot in life.

Costner plays a brother-in-law that asks questions like “I just read the CEO of your company makes 700 times what the guy building the ship makes. Does he work 700 times harder?”

It would’ve been a more interesting scene if Affleck explained to him why this is. It would’ve also been nice if the movie didn’t come off preachy and contrived. And how many people in this movie had to be surprised by the amount of money CEOs made?

Oh, and we’re supposed to believe Costner cares so much about people, that he’d overpay a character he doesn’t like, or that he’d take a job that is going to lose money just so his four employees can work through the winter.

Tommy Lee Jones has the perfect look and voice for his role, and it was nice to see Craig T. Nelson, who always plays a great slime ball (anyone remember him as the nasty coach in All the Right Moves, years before he played the goofy coach on TV?)

I usually love Cooper, but his character was so selfish and pathetic, it’s hard to have any sympathy for him and his future away from the company. Early on, Cooper gets angry and says if he’s let go, he’s going to “take an AK47 to this place!”

Hmmm…is that an employee you want working for you? Even if he has put in 30 years and started out welding bolts on ships?

I was talking about the movie on the radio with another critic, who said the Affleck character was so mean you never root for him. Sure, he was a tool…but I could overlook that. I have more of a problem with scenes where he goes into a boardroom asking everyone seated to guess what his golf score was, only to be let go. Those are scenes written for a lame TV show, not a movie.

John Wells, the writer/director, is the creator of ER. Maybe that’s a medium he’s more suited for.

I’d like to ask him if when Affleck gets fired, he really thinks two other co-workers would walk into his office asking “Do you know about my status?” A person might think this…but they’d be smart enough to say “I’m so sorry to hear about this. Let me know if there’s anything I can do.”

A sceneshown in the trailer I thought worked well has Affleck showing up at an employment agency that has silly exercises and pep talks before the new crew start looking for jobs. I liked that the woman running those meetings wasn’t over-the-top and a silly caricature. It seemed realistic in its subtle corniness.

The critic I discussed this with on the radio hated a scene in which Affleck turns down a $65,000 a year job, since he was there applying for something else. I actually liked how that scene went down. He was angry at all the unprofessionalism. He had to wait in the lobby a long time, the woman doing the interview was eating while she talked to him, and it just led to him exploding (note to self: at any future job interviews, don’t tell the person that Diet Coke’s aren’t working for them if they’re heavy).

Tommy Lee Jones is the most likable character, as he genuinely cares about his employees. How are we supposed to feel about him when we see he’s cheating on his wife? And when he goes to a dinner party with some of her old friends he doesn’t talk, just downs lots of wine.

The script wants us to not care for his wife, since the first scene with her has her talking about wanting to go Palm Springs and asks for Jones to secure the company jet. She also left a note about this expensive table she wanted that was $16,000. I contend that, until you tell her you need to scale back, she’s used to a certain lifestyle you had provided for her. Why should I hold that against her?

The script also wants us to believe that Jones, walking on a pier with Affleck, explaining how the company started from something small – would make him feel better about where he’s at in life. It struck me as condescending and goofy. Those are conversations you have with your 12-year-old when he asks you about what you do for a living.

This movie didn’t seem authentic, aside from the Nelson and Costner characters. I wish the studio would’ve downsized and not financed the film.

Glengarry Glen Ross was so much better, and covered the same ground. Heck, even Boiler Room (with Ben Affleck) was a good film that had similar themes.

I find it odd that other critics don’t find this material forced, predictable, and not worthy of your time.

Michael Douglas said, “Greed is good” in Wall Street. I think this movie was searching hard for their sound bite. How about: “You are just another a**hole with a resume!”

I’m giving the movie a D+.