THE COMPANY MEN (John Wells)
Okay, before you say say "not another story about the financial meltdown!", THE COMPANY MEN, boosted by strong performances from seasoned actors and fueled by a solid and compelling script, may in fact be the best movie retelling the aftermath of yet another momentous American fiasco.
THE COMPANY MEN, as the title suggests, focuses on the American employee-the workers who fall prey to corporate pushovers and fraud. That's basically it in a nutshell, but the story even politely gives the American corporate bully the benefit of the doubt by actually giving it a chance to explain. Meanwhile, we sit back, observe, and weigh the arguments of both parties. It's corporate vs workers, but when you think about it, it's really America vs. humanity. This is the exact same turmoil surrounding the Philippine Air Lines at present.
In the movie, the big bad wolf is GTX Corporation, a company engaged in ship building, located in Boston, Massachusetts. We see the effects of corporate downsizing basically on three different corporate levels. First is Ben Affleck's character, who for me has the most endearing segment, and Affleck captures his character's pride and arrogance with great command. Bobby Walker (Affleck) struggles to maintain the image that he still has a job, and the attachment he has to things he got used to, like golf membership, is devastating, especially when you see how his wife tries to bring him back up from ruins.
Up the corporate ladder, Phil Woodward (a very sly performance by Chris Cooper), pegged by one character as an ass-kisser, gets tanked too. Battling ego, age, and social as well as personal expectations, he does the unthinkable which rocks the whole corporation.
I mean, when you're a high-ranking employee suddenly forced to beg for a job, that's pretty harsh, right?
Thirdly, the immediate boss Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones) who is one of the driving forces and first employees of GTX gets sacked as well.
When you examine the scenarios for these three different people, the downsizing had similar and varying effects for them, but in the end they were all victims of cruel judgment, and maybe fraud.
The idea of the movie though is not to wallow in self-pity, but what to do in order to get back up. This brings me to Kevin Costner, who plays brother to Ben Affleck's character. I didn't know Costner is still active in films, and I am glad he is. Seeing him here, I remember how good he was especially during MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE and DANCES WITH WOLVES days. As the older brother to Bobby, Jack (Costner) offers a piece of learned advice, and as a veteran actor, we believe, appreciate, and empathize with Costner.
THE COMPANY MEN is stirringly human. It enables you to connect well with characters because the story is so familiar. I mean, most of us are the same work slaves. We are mostly not made up of Mark Zuckerberg, or Kris Aquino, who could do everything they want and get away with it. We appreciate our jobs (not saying that others don't) better because in every turn, a downsizing, or a dead end, or a cataclysmic event may befall us, and it will hit us hard. We can learn from THE COMPANY MEN. I was absolutely inspired and shaken up.