The Company Men review

John Wells' drama is a movie for our times, and will have a certain resonance for anyone who has been made redundant from their job. It centres on three individuals who work for CTX, a global shipping conglomerate, who are among the many thousands that are let go due to cost cutting during the 2008 financial meltdown.

Ben Affleck is the company's prize salesman, a married father with young children who has little luck in finding new employment. This necessitates him and his family moving out of their spacious home in an affluent neighbourhood and moving in with his parents at their smaller abode. His lovely wife (DeWitt) is understanding but worried about their financial situation and urges him to take a manual job with her carpenter brother (Costner, one of the top box office stars of the early '90s now relegated to an easy supporting role). It's a fair while though before Ben wakes up to his plight and reluctantly accepts.

Meanwhile middle manager Chris Cooper has his daughter's university fees to worry about and has also promised the teenager that he will pay for her sojourn abroad. But nearing 60, he feels he is too old to enter the job market again, especially as a careers advisor humiliatingly tells him to delete his Vietnam war record from his CV and also tells him to dye his hair. He goes off the rails despairingly.

Tommy Lee Jones plays the co-founder and number 2 of CTX. Though married with grown children he is conducting an affair with the sexy Human Resources head (Bello) and, though shocked at being made redundant, nevertheless adopts a more sanguine and calmer approach than his two colleagues. Each deals with the situation in their own way and Wells takes his time in showing the difficulties they face and how they respond. While his intentions are honourable, he cares for his characters too much and in depicting their troubles he has eschewed any humour to leaven the consistently glum narrative. A few laughs would have been welcome amidst the constant gloom the characters emanate.

Having shepherded The West Wing as well as other TV dramas, Wells has not fully departed from his small screen trappings. Truth be told, The Company Men feels like a TV pilot. It's watchable but uncompelling, well acted but never hard hitting, gentle and certainly eloquent but never moving. A good film then but not a great one. It's heart is in the right place but its belly needs more fire.

Official Site
The Company Men at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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