Economically the United States has been in a precarious place. Companies have gone under and people have lost their jobs. Bottom line is that many people have suffered. The Company Men tries to depict what the nation and its people are going through without really being political or making a social statement. This is really about the lives of the men involved. The three men are all in different places, albeit very financially stable places, and have to deal with the loss of their jobs and identities.
Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck – The Town, Good Will Hunting) is a 37-year-old sales executive at the company GTX. He makes a great salary, lives in a huge home and drives a Porsche. Suddenly Bobby finds himself the victim of downsizing at GTX and loses his job. Suddenly the perfect life he has built comes crashing down around him. Arrogantly he believes he will be able to find another job quickly. As the days of job hunting turn into months, Bobby becomes more and more withdrawn and depressed.
Bobby’s wife Maggie (Rosemarie DeWitt – Cinderella Man, Rachel Getting Married) is a more practical girl and begins making a budget and goes back to work as a nurse. She is proactive whereas Bobby is mad that she did not pay his fees at the golf club.
Finally reality sinks in when Bobby has to sell his Porsche, house and has to move in with Bobby’s parents. Also he has to take a job with Maggie’s brother (Kevin Costner – Dances With Wolves, The Untouchables), a man he has never liked and always felt superior to, as a manual labourer/carpenter.
Having to work as a manual labourer humanizes Bobby and when two men he never thought would be fired, Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones – The Fugitive, No Country For Old Men) and Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper – American Beauty, The Bourne Identity), are also canned a whole new understanding of life and work becomes clear.
The after effects of being fired are closely examined in three different ways in John Wells’ (directed episodes of ER) feature film debut. It is an interesting approach to look at three very well-off men to see how the economy is affecting people. You might think that it would be very hard to feel sorry for these rich guys, but you do. They fall hard and far. The only character who is dealt with harshly is the CEO (Craig T. Nelson – The Incredibles, Poltergeist), a man making 700 times what the average worker is who doesn’t think twice about sacrificing those who have made the company what it is for the sake of the price of its shares.
Wells does not allow this to become sentimental schlock at any point. He focuses on the three men involved and how they each react to the loss of their jobs. There is a wide range of emotions going on here. From anger to embarrassment to denial to despair, it is all there. There is no reliance on clichés or taking the easy way out. Several surprises occur and there is always a glimmer of hope.
Though Affleck is decent in the film (his second strong film in a row after last year’s The Town) but it is Tommy Lee Jones and Chris Cooper who are the stars of the film. Tommy Lee Jones has a face that is able to make you feel the pain he is going through and how it grows throughout the film. Cooper’s character is the best written with plenty of interesting facets to it and his performance is spot on.