Set during the financial crisis and recession, The Company Men (2010) is a good observation of the effects that company downsizing has on those that go through redundancy. ‘Observation’ is a good way to describe the feeling you get in watching this film, as you never really get to find out the inner turmoil that seems to be affecting the characters, their families, and their children.
Maybe this is the point. How many of us truly know how our friends and families are affected through redundancy and recession unless it affects us directly? How many of us really care it someone you ‘kind of know’, is let go? Would Affleck’s character have cared if he had been saved from the chop, rather than being made redundant? You get a sense in this film that we are all just “numbers”. If those ‘numbers’ are not bringing in enough ‘numbers’ for the shareholders, downsizing needs to happen. We can all pretend that we work for companies that are family led businesses, that care about their employees like friends, but this film is a good reflection that ultimately, even if this is the case, money talks.
The characters are well acted and well portrayed. Chris Cooper and Tommy Lee Jones (TLY), act well and you do feel the pain in Chris Cooper’s face from the moment his redundancy happens. Ben Affleck plays the ‘college boy made good’, $120,000 per annum plus benefits with his usual pomp and the only criticism is the slightly weak script that doesn’t offer him more, than at times, playing the part. His interactions with Kevin Costner are great and more could have been made of Costner’s character. Again the only issue is the slightly cheesy scenes of Affleck ‘finding himself’ in a slightly over the top montage of Affleck carrying wood and banging nails at the construction site.
Maybe the message that self resonates the most is that redundancy can affect some people in a positive way. Yes, Cooper’s character, faces the uncertainty of being old, grey and ‘passed his best’. However, the film demonstrates that craft, and rebuilding (hence the house building scenes) can lead to rebirth, creation and innovation. Affleck almost decides that he would rather be a builder than a salesman and TLY’s character decides to go back to his shipbuilding roots to start afresh. The rebirth of the shipping business he helped create, is without subtlety, suggested in a small boat leading a large tanker out of the docks. Hense the rebirth is complete. Tellingly at the end, Affleck’s character, returns to his ‘sales pitched, I have power’ persona, and you wonder if this is a message to us all, that, in the end once personal and commercial power is restored, power and wealth will end up taking over again, and commercial order will be restored… and consequently crumble again…
A good film, well acted, but with a slightly thin script. 7.5/10