Sunday, 20 March 2011

REVIEW: The Company Men

Death of a salesman...........BOOM.

It's a notable in trend in recent years to see the shunning of political movies in Hollywood. Particularly those dealing with headline problems rather then the social dilemmas of thirty years ago. So a film dealing with race or gay rights can be warmly accepted, but a film dealing with say The Iraq War in any political sense, or the political strife of the last ten years gets dealt with in a strict manor of denial. People of our generation it seems don't want go to the movies and see their life. they want to fuck off to Pandora and pretend this life doesn't exist for a while. Its a shame, because I found The Company Men to be an intelligent humanist drama, that is exactly the kind of film people should see. It explores the issue of the financial crisis in a way that isn't preachy or patronizing, yet doesn't duck away from it either. Its not perfect by any means, but its mature, relevant film-making.

The Company Men comes TV legend John Wells, responsible for ER, latter years of the West Wing and much of the TV landscape of the last decade. All of his work is smart and to the point, and eschews sentimentality in lieu of of tight and insightful character drama, and its this that makes The Company Men appealing. Its not the platform sob-story it could have been instead showing a much more practical approach to exploring the fallout of the recession through three characters at varying positions in a company. It follows the perspectives of three characters from the D-Day onwards, Ben Affleck's laid off salesman, Tommy Lee Jones' executive with a conscience and Chris Cooper's relic from a past era, and slowly watches their lives unravel. I think this is one of Affleck's best performances in years, the eternal problem of his douchiness fitting much more naturally within the character and allowing the most convincing Affleck everyman I have ever seen. Tommy Lee Jones brings his familiar crabby soulfulness, but just as he did in No Country For Old Men, lends it a soulfulness that deepens the character immensely and shows why he's quite possibly the most intelligent actor currently working. Cooper does a lot with a little, his role is a little marginilized in comparison with the other two. But he gets a couple of scenes that really hit home, particularly a moment where he is advised to leave his service in Vietnam of his resume because it shows his age.

The script is an impressive, considered work that shows a side of the financial crisis we don't get to see, and watching the rich get humbled be the even richer isn't as satisfying as one might expect. Thoughtfulness is a rare commodity at the movies these days, and in that sense The Company Men works as a refreshingly frank chronicle of the cost of greed. I get that people don't like things too close to home, which could explain the near burial of this film, but its one worth seeking out.

Rating: 7/10

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