The Company Men buckles under the weight of its own lofty ambitions.
Hollywood’s relationship with the global financial crisis was always going to be uneasy. As an industry based upon obscene amounts of wealth it would seem rather hypocritical to start decrying the mechanisms which have kept the dollars rolling in for so many years. Even a film like Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps was determined to side-step the core issues at the heart of the crisis and instead concentrate on the devastating fact that some rich people would become slightly less rich.
On the surface, The Company Men would seem to buck the trend. But on closer examination it does nothing more than reinterpret the recession as a perfect opportunity for self-improvement.
Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) is a high-flying executive brought down to earth by redundancy – his world of five-figure bonuses and expensive living replaced by financial worry. As he attempts to find a new job, he finds himself working for his brother-in- law, proud blue-collar builder Jack (Kevin Costner). And then there’s the question of his former colleagues, who are going to find out just how expendable they are.
The Company Men buckles under the weight of its own lofty ambitions – it strives to be an incisive portrait of American capitalism and masculinity in crisis but ends up as a rather toothless and obvious slice of melodrama. The characters are all broad and predictable stereotypes (the arrogant rich man brought down a peg or two, the honest labourer, the supportive but tough wife) and many of the film’s conclusions hinge on a glib conservatism – pull your socks up and everything will be fine. The revelation that some men find redundancy emasculating ranks up there with clichés about popes and Catholicism.
The likes of Tommy Lee Jones and Chris Cooper do their best with the material but even their good performances can’t make up for a staid script and rather flat direction from Wells (whose background is in TV – and how it shows). The Company Men is a rather dull character study and a failure as social commentary. You’d be wise to save your money for something else.
An emotive subject should hold the interest.
There are a few good moments – largely thanks to the performances – but it’s all very predictable.
There will be plenty of good movies about the recession. This isn’t one of them.