Friday, January 21, 2011

Company Men

A major corporation run by CEO Craig T. Nelson is downsizing.  Sales executive Ben Affleck is hit in the first round of layoffs.  And seasoned executive Chris Cooper is nervous about his position as well.  But friend, cofounder, and Executive Vice President Tommy Lee Jones is fed up with Nelson’s lack of loyalty to his people.

This somber film about the impact of the crashing economy on the upper middle class is timely, but probably would have been even more timely had it come out almost a year ago when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.  It just seems a bit late now that the economy appears to be on an upswing. 

On the plus side, the performances are all very solid, with Tommy Lee Jones giving a particularly good one as the rare multimillionaire executive with a conscience.  And Affleck and Cooper successfully come across as sympathetic despite their enviable lifestyles prior to the financial crisis.  And the supporting cast including Kevin Costner, Rosemarie DeWitt, and Maria Bello all pull their weight.

My only major issue with the film is that it seems to want to draw sympathy from the viewer as an 'it could happen to you' cautionary tale.  And while it's true, getting laid off certainly could happen to any of us, it is hard to feel sympathy for these fat cat executives who apparently didn't save a nickel.  I mean, come on!  They have beautiful homes and cars but are still living paycheck to paycheck?  Really?  Nevertheless, the cast does a good enough job that it worked.  I felt for them.
The downsizing aspect of the film will undoubtedly draw comparisons to ‘Up in the Air’, and the motivational speeches that Affleck endures at his career placement service will probably be compared to ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’.  But neither comparison is really warranted.  This film is significantly different than those two and stands on its own legs.
Grade:  B+

1 comment:

  1. What a cast! I'd never even heard of this, and yet, after reading your review, I want to see it. I have to say though, you cannot imagine the number of people who have an outward appearance of plenty and comfort, yet who are in reality totally living from paycheck to paycheck. We see it in Florida more than you can imagine. If you ever get a chance to read on of Dave Ramsey's books, you learn all about this sad phenomenon. "Keeping up with the Joneses" is really not even scraping the surface of how bad it can get.
    Great review. Look forward to seeing it!