Monday, January 10, 2011

The Company Men (John Wells) - 2010

I feel it might be too soon for a film like The Company Men to be seen by a wide American audience. If film history has taught us anything, it is that movie goers use film as a means of escape during rough times. So, how does an audience respond to a film dealing with the current economic crisis and job layoffs? Even two of the characters in the film decide to go see a movie to escape for a couple of hours. How would they feel after leaving The Company Men?

At the same time, not all film is meant as escape. Film is art as much as literature and painting and photography and music. In fact, film is the most accessible form of art. The job of art is to respond to the current cultural climate. To examine the way we live and the way the rest of the world lives. It is all about response. Reaction. The Company Men is so successful because it delicately creates a series of character studies without making the audience feel, or think, "I can't relate to any of these men." In fact, Wells has done something very incredible with his characters. Wells has given them enough story to make them stand out, but not too much so they still have something for the audience to grasp.

I will never make the type of money any of the men in this film made. I will never need to worry about the finances of an entire family, an oversized house, fancy cars, and extravagant vacations. But, I still exist within these worries on the small scale. The enormity of some of these men's finances is scary. Are they as much to blame for their downfall? Do they live beyond their means? Do we, as Americans, refuse to acknowledge we've gone too far? Is Wells speaking big picture here? National debt, etc?

The weakness of the films falls on the wives. Either Wells doesn't know how to write for women, or Wells comes from a very traditional background, or wealthy wives really behave this way... I don't know. Either way, I was uncomfortable with the portrayal of many of these women. One wife refuses to let her recently fired husband come home before 6pm because she doesn't want the neighbors to know he has been laid off. Another wife talks about a weekend getaway to Palm Springs seconds after her husband has informed her of the layoffs at work. Are these women so out of touch? More so than their husbands? Rosemarie De Witt (playing the wife to Ben Affleck's character) is the only likable female of the film. Her role on The United States of Tara is distracting and over the top. In fact, I was annoyed to see she was in The Company Men. But, her clear headed, strong female character was just what this film needed.

Tommy Lee Jones was made for his role in this film. Every sigh, every pained squint of this performance is perfection. The creased aged lines of Jones' face add an additional level of sadness to the character. After watching this film, I believe Jones should receive an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Every role Jones has created feels as though it was a stepping stone to arrive at this role. Truly perfected and heartfelt.

As with any film wanting to reach mass appeal, there is an element of hope to the film. The film's previews claim it is time for America to take back their lives and not only live for their work. I'm not sure the film is successful in this message. But, there is a period of time for these men to slow down. To reevaluate their lives, their families, their futures.

The film is perfectly cast. The acting is superior. The cinematography is beautiful. The film may run along a few cliches from time to time, but in the end The Company Men is still a very rewarding and honest experience.


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