"The Company Men"
Written and directed by John Wells, starring Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper and Tommy Lee Jones
2010, 109 minutes
PW contributor Dean Recklaw and I leafleted the crowd leaving the first North Texas showing of "The Company Men" with one of his amazing song parodies, which he turns into comic-book fliers. Dean's story, that of a gifted graphics artist laid off over two years ago, would have made a much better movie than this one, which was about three big-time successful executives, played by Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper and Tommy Lee Jones, who deal with unemployment that lasts a few days longer than their generous severance packages. Affleck's character, designed as the most pity-evoking one, eventually has to come down from over $160,000 yearly to $80,000. Alas!
Technically, the movie is pretty well done. There are some dramatic pictures of shutdown production sites and some barbed jabs at overpaid CEOs, outsourcing, and America's indifference to the children it's eating. The acting is more than okay. Superstar Kevin Costner just about steals the whole movie in a tiny cameo as the only sympathetic employer anywhere (he has a small crew of carpenters working on a house makeover).
The movie fails because its good intentions don't go nearly far enough. We're asked to sympathize because a stony-faced executive has to sell his Porsche when the real victims, all around us, losing custody of their children, going to jail, and shooting up dope or the universities.
Altogether, I'd recommend the movie just because it's topical and well done, but I'd advise leaving about 10 minutes before it's over, to avoid being insulted by the Hollywood ending.
Graphic by Dean Reklaw.