Tuesday, 1 March 2011


Madman Films
Now Showing

Coming so soon after Inside Job, the Oscar-winning documentary about the avarice and arrogance of Wall Street, it's a little too much to expect us to feel sorry for the corporate suits losing their jobs as a result of the economic downturn in The Company Men.

Not that all of those men in John Wells' film are as bad or as at fault as those corporate cowboys who brought about the Global Financial Crisis and, as Inside Job director Charles Ferguson reminded us during his Oscars acceptance speech, got off scott-free.

GTX, a shipping manufacturer, is in trouble but rather than forgo building their new headquarters or dip into shareholder profits, the board decides to shed thousands of jobs. One of those jobs is held by Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck), a top salesman with a six-figure salary. When he's unceremoniously retrenched, he wades through his anger before deciding not to cut back on the lifestyle he, and his family, have become accustomed to; a new, high paying corporate job is surely just around the corner.

Another GTX employee, Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper), who has been with the company since its inception, is cut during a second round of dismissals. He doesn't know anything but work, and with two daughters attending college, and fast approaching retirement age, his options are severely limited and his choices more severe.

Long time friend and GTX board member, Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones), would be in the same boat if he didn't have the luxury of cashing in his GTX stock when his superior, and oldest friend, GTX owner James Salinger (Craig T Nelson), lets him go too. Gene is the closest thing the GTX board has to a conscience, one of the first things to go when the financial going gets tough.

It's hard to sympathise with someone's whose idea of sacrifice is to sell their Porshce and cancel their golf club membership. Bobby believes that looking successful is key to his being successful once more and is reluctant to recognise their situation. That's one of the reasons he turns down a job offer from builder brother-in-law, Jack (Kevin Costner).

As a study of men forced to re-evaluate their lives, The Company Men is a solid drama. But Wells' decision to use the GFC as the catalyst for this drama, and have the suits nearer the centre of that financial shit storm as his protagonists, lessened the impact for me. I'm not saying that those money men further down the corporate ladder are unworthy of sympathy or empathy, but I find their 'plights' harder to engage with . Try walking in the shoes of Ree Dolly, the heroine of Winter's Bone, and then get back to me.

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