The Company Men Review
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In recent years, millions of people have suddenly found themselves without a job, struggling to make ends meet. While a number of documentaries have explored the causes of the recession and other films (like 2009’s Up in the Air) have explored the fallout, though, few have captured the recession’s emotional impact quite like The Company Men.

Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) has given the last 12 years of his life to GTX, a ship-building company based on Boston. But when the company needs to cut costs to balance the books, Bobby is one of the first to go. Angry but confident, he’s convinced that he’ll have no problem finding another job—but he soon learns that, in the midst of the recession, there are just too many others like him. As the weeks pass, he wonders how he’ll be able to maintain his family’s lifestyle.

Meanwhile, those who are left behind—like Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper)—fear the worst. And Bobby’s former boss, Gene (Tommy Lee Jones), struggles to toe the company line and stay loyal to a company that no longer cares about its people.

In this timely drama, writer/director John Wells offers an emotional—but also somewhat hopeful—look at the consequences of corporate downsizing. It’s a tough topic to handle, since just about every one of us knows someone who’s been affected by the recession. Even if we haven’t experienced is ourselves, we’ve watched as friends, family members, and other loved ones have struggled and suffered. So it’s a relief to see that Wells handles the subject with honesty and sincerity.

Throughout the film, Bobby goes through all of the usual stages of grief over losing his job—from denial, guilt, and anger all the way to acceptance. It’s an accurate portrayal of the experience—the frustration, the fear, and sometimes even the humor—and viewers will relate. You’ll laugh at the ironies, you’ll share in the shame, you’ll sympathize with the frustration and depression, and you’ll celebrate the successes. Along the way, there are also plenty of lessons to be learned—and, at least for some of the characters, there could even be a ray of light shining at the end of the tunnel.

The film’s greatest flaw, then, is that much of the cast is underused—and their characters are underdeveloped. Affleck’s Bobby stands solidly in the spotlight, while the other characters—especially Cooper’s panic-stricken Phil—remain hidden in the shadows. Their stories are told through the occasional short snapshots—and, unfortunately, we never really get a feel for who they are or why they do what they do.

Still, The Company Men is a heartfelt drama about the recession, faithfully conveying the emotion of the characters’ experience without resorting to bitterness or melodrama. For some, it may hit a bit too close to home, but that just means that it’s done its job.

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