Studio: The Weinstein Company (109 mins)
Plot: The story centers on a year in the life of three men trying to survive a round of corporate downsizing at a major company.
Cast: Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper, Kevin Costner, Eamonn Walker
Bottom Line: ***
By Samantha Ofole-Prince
In his latest offering, Ben Affleck plays Bobby Walker, a high-level sales employee and the youngest of three executives who is living the American dream with a great job, a huge home, a gorgeous family and a shinny sports car in the garage. After he is laid off from his high profile position, he reluctantly ends up back at his parent’s home with his family, and soon finds himself building houses for his brother-in-law (Kevin Costner) -- a job that does not play to his executive skill set. Clearly jolted by the experience and the demotion, he has difficulty dealing with the change in status and income as he loses his place in the American upper middle class corporate hierarchy.
Chris Cooper plays another hapless high-level executive caught in the corporate machinery and joins Tommy Lee Jones, Maria Bello and Eamonn Walker who round off the cast.
Focusing on the well oiled machinery of the corporate world, "The Company Men" can feel hugely relatable at times as it introduces us to the harsh realities of what can happen when the American dream becomes a nightmare.
With humor, pathos, and keen observation, writer-director John Wells (the creator of "ER") introduces us to the new realities of American life with great acting from Affleck, Cooper, Jones and Walker, who all exude that weary toughness as they deal with difficulties that challenge them whilst seeking gainful employment.
A story loosely based on the experiences of his friends, family and acquaintances of various soci-economic backgrounds, Wells wrote the story after the last economic recession in the early nineties.
"The company Men" isn't just about the rise of mass unemployment for the film has several statements to make as it's also about the devastation these layoffs have caused families.
After the corporate downsizing renders these men jobless, they are forced to re-define their lives as men, husbands, and fathers. There's plenty of compassion, for Wells inserts heart and sensitivity into the proceedings so the story does not get too grim and depressing. Still, the lessons of the film do ring true and are compelling enough to convince us that there are always solutions to the new realities of American life.
In an economy where downsizing has become the norm, "The Company Men" aptly captures the worldwide economic meltdown of the past three years.
This column was printed in the February 13, 2011 - February 26, 2011 edition.