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Monday, January 31, 2011

The Company Men

If Ben Affleck keeps this up, he'll never have to look for work.

When critiquing a film, there are a handful of things you have to consider - the tone of the film, the depth of the performances, how it flows as a whole, key moments that help the film develop an emotional resonance, so on and so forth. At least, that's how I do it. One should judge the story presented, and how it fits into the world the film assumes. The Company Men, for all intents and purposes, is a perfect film. Nothing is out of place. But, even though the film sets out to do what it achieves and has no sense of pretense about it, there is something in the mix that just doesn't ring true. 

More after the cut --

Perhaps it's the fact that I'm admittedly not too familiar with the corporation world, and just how it is that stocks and shareholdings and that sort of thing work that kept me from connecting. And, since this is a film most definitely made for the everyman, that's the only area in which the film falls behind. It's a holiday uplifter, and made to be sort of a medicine for anyone who has been effected by something so seemingly preventable. Where the film succeeds, on the other hand, is in every other aspect. Performances, the tech aspects, the surprisingly subtle direction... it's a nearly flawless piece, doing exactly what it set out to do: educate, and entertain.

It's a multi-narrative of a unique brand - most multi-narratives focus on strangers whose lives are tied together by one singular event or theme. Here, our characters are all close, and are effected by the same event and theme. Corporate downsizing, and how it effects a man, his family, and his community. Similar to 2009's Up in the Air, but superior in several regards, this film takes the singularity of that film, and puts it into a multitude of enriched characters. Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, Tommy Lee Jones, Rosemarie DeWitt, Kevin Costner, Craig T. Nelson, and Maria Bello all shine in their roles, big or small, and serve the film's purpose without ever missing a beat.

Affleck plays his character with a sympathy that he's grown into during the later years of his career. He has already cemented his plays in the Great American Directors club, and is now becoming one of the great American actors, bringing not only a cocksure sensibility to his roles, but understanding the vulnerabilities of his characters. Here is no different. It wouldn't be fair to talk about the performances, without going through each one. And each one certainly deserves their own recognition.

Cooper, Tommy Lee Jones, and Craig T. Nelson are the eldest employees of GTX, the company being downsized by its legal department and Maria Bello. Rosemarie DeWitt is Affleck's wife and mother of two, and Kevin Costner is her brother. Cooper and Jones give outstanding supporting work, in an entirely supporting cast - they give their characters a unique sense of bitterness and disappointment, not only in the situation, but more toward their lives in general. Sad, but supremely, executed work. Maria Bello lives out of her notepad, dinner to dinner, dress to dress; she's the type of business woman who seemingly needs an affair to be complete. Kevin Costner, stronger than he's been in years, holds as much mercy in his performance as DeWitt, but he is "the man's man". Honest, hardworking, generous - all words that can describe his performance, rather than his character. DeWitt and T. Nelson, sadly, are the wasted of the bunch. They're solid, and DeWitt's work is a beautiful counterpart to Affleck's, but they don't have enough to do.

New director John Wells has crafted a masterpiece for our modern economic struggle. And, again, though similar to 2009's Up in the Air by Jason Reitman, the odd sense of humanity imbued into the daily, tragic happenings sets it apart. Similar themes, wildly different execution.

I wish it had been longer, but... we can only judge what the film gave us.