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Company Men, The


Stars: Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Maria Bello, Rosemarie DeWitt, Craig T. Nelson, Eamonn Walker, Tom Kemp, Nancy Villon, Patricia Kalember, Maryanne Plunkett

Director: John Wells

“What happened? Did somebody die?” asks executive Affleck when he faces clearly shattered fellow workers. He soon finds out when he, too, is dismissed, and at 37 is faced with trying to survive while looking fruitlessly for a new job. And, later, high-end colleagues Cooper and Jones join him among the unemployed in a sincere, well-made and rather depressing drama that credibly exposes the horrors faced by downsized, out-of-work executives whose American Dream sours into the American nightmare. But ultimately it lacks the courage of its convictions with a Capra-esque ending that is rather less believable than a politician’s promise.

Still, scriptwriter and first time director Wells does a solid job and elicits strong performances from, in particular, Cooper and Jones. Affleck is a trifle dull, partly due to the role and partly from a certain pompousness that works against conviction, although he plays well when he ends up having to work as a labourer for his house-builder brother-in-law, saltily played by Costner. The moral – life is as hellish for unemployed white collar workers as it is for blue collar job seekers – comes over strongly although one can’t help wondering how it is that these well-paid executives appear to have no savings.

Supporting roles are well played by Bello, the ice cold exec who culls her colleagues to order and Nelson, chilling as the callous chef executive.

It’s a potent drama but – perhaps due to Wells’ celebrated writing stints on TV’s ‘E.R.’ and ‘The West Wing’, there are times whenThe Company Men feels like a star-studded pilot film for a prestige television series.

Alan Frank

USA 2010. UK Distributor: Universal. Colour by deluxe.
104 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 09 Mar 2011