The Company Men (2010) starring Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, Kevin Costner, Craig T. Nelson and Tommy Lee Jones follows the lives of three men who become victims of downsizing during the economic crisis which mirrors the recent Great Recession. All three men are forced to redefine themselves and come to terms with what it means to be successful in a society where the only measuring stick is money and power.
One of the characters, Gene McClary, (Tommy Lee Jones) helped start the company — with his college buddy, James Salinger (Craig T. Nelson) — that eventually dismisses him.
But, before he is handed his pink slip McClary tries hard to be the voice of reason inside a company that is struggling to stay afloat. McClary, who questions the ethics of the layoffs, personally takes on the fight to keep 60-year-old Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper) employed — and temporarily succeeds as Woodward takes on the work of several employees to remain with the company.
But it only postpones the inevitible.
Each of the three men — McClary, Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) and Woodward — undergo their own unique set of obstacles and redefining moments as they try to find their way back inside the world of work. The movie centers mostly on Walker who is forced to come to terms with his new life. Walker learns to redefine himself and the definition of success, slowly and steadily as he first loses his Porche, then his house and eventually his self identity.
The movie dips into the well of corporate responsibility and the inequity of wages mostly through the eyes of Walker’s brother-in-law Jack Dolan (Kevin Costner). Dolan is a salt of the earth type construction worker who despises the idea of CEOs earning 700 times more than their employees. True to his type, Dolan is also the one that offers Walker a job despite the economic hardship it causes him. The job serves as the catalyst for Walker’s rebirth.
Some viewers will be put off by the commonly-used white male, greed-infested CEO, but at its core the movie does hit upon a uniquely American phenomenon. The paradox of how a Christian-based society (with its economy guided by the All-Knowing) easily and quickly disposes of its employees during hard times — feeling no ethical responsibility toward the individuals who made them successful during good times.
If you have worked in a less-than-perfect corporation that used layoffs to improve profitability — the movie’s accuracy in depicting the downsizing process will feel uncanny.
Rated 4 out of 5.