Gordon Gekko always said, “Greed is good”. Writer/Director John Wells is now saying the opposite. In The Company Men we see the downsizing of a major corporation to help offset the company’s financial woes to raise their stock prices.
Throughout the film we follow three men from GTX: Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) who is fired from the company and must work with his brother-in-law (Kevin Costner) as a carpenter, Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper) who is worried about losing his job, and Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones) as an executive trying to save the rest of his employees. The film splits the time relatively equal between the three main leads, which makes the film become a nice ensemble piece.
Bobby is fired by Sally (Maria Bello) without the knowledge of Gene, who lashes out against his friend and head of GTX James Salinger (Craig T. Nelson). Bobby goes to an agency who helps fired employees find jobs and fails to land one until he begs Jack (Costner) for the job, after losing his house, his car, and pride. By the end of the film, Gene offers Bobby a job and he starts work managing some of his former employees in a new company.
Phil is worried that he will not be able to provide for his two daughters – one in college and one heading to college next year – if he loses his job. Reality settles in and he is let go during the second round of downsizing. Phil is obviously distraught, worrying about his family, while his alcoholic of a wife leaves it up to him to continue to try and provide for the family. After days of drinking and no prospects for a job, Phil commits suicide which hits his co-workers hard.
Gene has it all – wealth, a large home, and a beautiful wife. However, he still has an affair with Sally as he feels his wife is leading a life of luxury that no longer suits him. He continues to try and convince James that GTX started out as a humble company, not needing large salaries and all the fanciness to get the job done. However, his constant arguments with James lead Gene to getting fired by Sally and feels betrayed by James, but ends up starting his own consulting firm at the end of the film.
The film as a whole was deeply touching and even though the characters had riches and didn’t want to give them up, you saw families struggle and sacrifice in the end. Chris Cooper was by far the heart and soul of the movie, and he brought such emotion to the role that the film wouldn’t have been nearly as great without him.
The Company Men is only scheduled for a small theatrical run, so if you have the chance to see it, don’t miss out. For those of you who don’t get to see the film in theaters, be sure to check it out the day it hits stores. While John Wells is mainly known for his work on television (ER, Southland, and The West Wing), if he continues to make films like The Company Men, he will be around for a long time.
Final Grade: 9.0/10