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The Company Men (Review)

Zeitgeist drama doesn't quite dig deep enough

By Jason Gargano · February 4th, 2011 · Movies
The 2008 economic meltdown is no doubt ripe for dramatic interpretation. John Wells, the bigwig TV producer/writer behind ER, The West Wing and the new Southland, steps up with his take on the Death of the American Dream and corporate greed run amok, but he does so armed with a righteous indignation that is only sporadically earned.

The story's brisk opening features television news footage about the Wall Street collapse, followed by a montage of the various shiny possessions belonging to the well-off white men at New England-based GTX, a mondo manufacturing company with more than 60,000 employees.

One of them is Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck), a 12-year GTX vet who handles its regional sales operation and who isn’t shy about voicing his exploits on the golf course. Bobby’s swagger evaporates when he’s blindsided by a round of corporate downsizing — his position is described as a “redundancy” — that threatens to destroy his cushy suburban life with his wife (Rosemarie DeWitt) and teenage son.

We then follow Bobby as he deals with his embarrassing new reality and how it infects his sense of worth, reluctantly forcing him to reassess his role as a husband and father, not to mention jeopardizing his Porsche, country-club membership and Patriots season tickets. But instead of delving deeper into the family dynamic — Bobby's wife and son are never fully fleshed — Wells injects more “men” into the equation: Tommy Lee Jones as seemingly the only GTX higher-up with a conscience; an underutilized Chris Cooper as another victim of the company’s heartless tactics; and Kevin Costner as Bobby's blue-collar brother-in-law and fountain of didactic, common-man wisdom.

Jones' wounded eyes and haggard, hound-dog face are far more effective than anything he or anyone else is given to say in Wells' well-meaning but all-too-obvious screenplay. Jones gives The Company Men a fleeting pathos Bobby fails to generate at the film's center, in part because it's hard to sympathize with Affleck, the epitome of Hollywood good fortune and purveyor of limited emotive skills, as a man on the ropes. Grade: C

Opens Feb. 4. Check out theaters and show times, see the trailer and get theater details here.



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