Jan 29, 2011

The Company Men

A fabulous cast (Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper, Maria Bello, Rosemary De Witt, Kevin Costner), is wasted on what feels like an episode of a TV series.
I wonder if writer-director John Wells saw the excellent Italian movie Days and Clouds, because it just so happens that in both movies the people who lose their jobs work building ships at shipyards. I strongly recommend Days and Clouds, a personal horror story of the downward spiral of a sophisticated, upwardly mobile family. At its center is a flawed and fascinating character and the movie grips you because he is stubborn, arrogant, yet deeply sympathetic (the wonderful Antonio Albanese). In contrast, The Company Men feels like a lifeless, paint by numbers affair. At its center is also a stubborn and arrogant man, sympathetically played by Ben Affleck, but everyone in this movie is written like a sketch.  I wonder if American audiences will ever tire and revolt against the stick figures that pass for characters in Hollywood. To be fair, the characters in this movie are not one dimensional. They have one dimension and a half.
Two things make The Company Men worth putting in your Netflix queue:
The illustration that even people who have impressive sounding titles like Senior Vice President of Blibli Blublu, live in enormous houses and drive Porsches are up to their necks in debt and that their affluence is a delusional front aided and abetted by their incomprehensible enthusiasm for spending money they don't have.
The only other reason to sit through this movie (besides having the chance to watch Maria Bello even for a second) is Tommy Lee Jones. He is going on my nominee list. His character is a stretch: a decent corporate executive who is actually pained by layoffs even as his stock options soar. Yeah, right. But Jones brings no nonsense warmth and wit to this guy and he communicates volumes without saying a word. Somebody should make a movie of his face. You can feel he is tired and you can feel his pain, and you can feel his quiet outrage. The movie leaves its state of coma every time he commands the frame. He is funny, sharp, and awesome. 

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