Friday, January 28, 2011

"Company Men" Hits Close to Home

“Company Men” hit a little too close to home for me.
I was never a high-paid executive, but I had a job that I loved at a newspaper I had served since I was a 12-year-old delivery boy. When the Boca Raton News closed its doors I was not so much surprised as resigned. My worst fears had become a reality.
That was about 18 months ago, but I still miss the old routine.
“Company Men” follows three corporate executives after they are arbitrarily laid off from the fictional GTX ship-building organization.
Writer-director John Wells picked a likely field for downsizing and outsourcing, because American ship-building is as sickly as daily-delivered newspapers.
Ben Affleck plays the archetypical young hotshot: Bobby Walker, regional sales manager of GTX and owner of Porsche, dream house in Connecticut and fat expense account.
“Guess what I shot today?” brags Bobby as he breezes into work.
When Bobby realizes nobody is interested in his golf game, he becomes defensive.
“What happened? Did somebody die?”
Yes Bobby, your career just died along with a host of your best buddies.
“We work for the shareholders now,” announces a grim-faced Craig Nelson as CEO.
Anger, shock, disbelief, rage and sorrow are the immediate reactions of Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones), who has been with the company since its formation, and Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper), a loyal company man if there ever was one.
For those of us who have been there, it is hard to feel sorry for these guys as they are knocked down to size. It is much easier to sympathize with the women in their lives, who for the most part prove more resilient and adaptable than the men.
It is richly ironic that Bobby is reduced to begging for a construction job from his gruff brother-in-law Jack Dolan, played with relish by Kevin Costner. Bobby deserves an humbling experience.
By contrast it is a lot harder on Phil Woodward, played with great gravity and inner turmoil by the strong, almost silent Chris Cooper.
For Gene McClary it is more a personal betrayal, and Tommy Lee Jones makes us feel his seething rage.
There is a faint uptick of hope in “Company Men” that keeps it from being totally bleak. As our economy struggles to regain its footing we can appreciate any little Atta boy we can get.
“Company Men” has been pretty much ignored in this year’s awards sweepstakes, but it is not a bad film, just very dark, with the cold slap of truth.


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