Pajiba’s Gems: The Company Men

Last week, our buddy site, Pajiba, ran a list of twenty under-appreciated gems on Netflix instant. Pajiba has rarely (if ever) steered me wrong, so I hastily added most of the list to my instant queue. I’m going to be reviewing all of them, over the next couple of months. First up, The Company Men.

Promotional movie poster for 2010's The Company MenThe Company Men is the story of three men of various (but all pretty comfortable) stations who lose their jobs at a large corporation. I hesitated before adding it to my list, I’ve seen plenty of movies about the experience of being a well-off white dude in America. I find it interesting, in an “oh, this again” sort of way, that most of the fictionalized stories we’ve seen about the Great Recession have been about the men.

There’s no shortage of men in this movie. In fact, aside from one character, the women are limited to the wives, mistresses and assistants of the primary characters. It certainly doesn’t pass the Bechdel test, none of the women ever speak to each other, and there’s only one brief scene where ¬†more than one woman is on screen at a time. While this is a big criticism, in my book, there was a lot to like about the film. It’s quiet, and it’s subtle. It’s easy to empathize with the main characters, all of whom are layered and somewhat complex.

The cast is very strong. Tommy Lee Jones is compelling in his role, as he usually is. Chris Cooper, who I don’t think has ever given less than 200% to a role, is phenomenal. Maria Bello gives her usual solid, very watchable performance. The real surprises are Ben Affleck and Kevin Costner, both of whom I’ve made fun of extensively in the past. Costner is perfect in a small supporting role, so much so that I didn’t recognize him until his second scene. The story belongs to Affleck’s character, Bob Walker, and he does a remarkable job of bringing him to life.

The Company Men is very character driven, the whos, whys and wherefores of the plot are fairly inconsequential. We’re here to see how and if these men can figure out how to move on, to understand what makes these men resilient (or not), what gives them strength (or doesn’t), and, apparently, whether or not they have good wives who support them or shitty wives who don’t. That last point isn’t exclusive to The Company Men, by a long shot, but a girl can still hope for more stories about women that aren’t sub-plots to stories about men.

The nuts and bolts are also spot on. It’s beautifully shot, with interesting visual juxtapositions between the men’s befores and their afters. The score is lovely and simple, relying primarily on a single piano to provide the mood.

The Company Men isn’t a big, bold, or loud movie, and it doesn’t break much ground, but it’s highly watchable.

Selena’s Recommendation vs. the rest of Netflix Instant: More worthwhile than watching yet another marathon of ¬†Law & Order: SVU, not quite as worthwhile as re-watching “Blink” or “The Girl in the Fireplace.”

By [E] Selena MacIntosh*

Selena MacIntosh is the owner and editor of Persephone Magazine. She also fixes it when it breaks. She is fueled by Diet Coke, coffee with a lot of cream in it, and cat hair.

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