The Company Men
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this timely and topical drama -- which focuses on three executives who are forced to reexamine their values after losing their jobs -- is likely to be much more relatable for adults than for teens. There's also some mature content, including brief nudity, a lot of swearing ("s--t," "f--k," and more), and a good deal of drinking (including characters drinking to drown their sorrows). On the up side, characters who are initially invested in the material comforts of an increasingly upscale life learn that loyalty to friends and family is more important than pride.
What's the story?
After putting distance between himself and his unglamorous, modest childhood by building a privileged life in a leafy suburb funded by a six-figure sales job at a multinational corporation, Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) finds himself downsized. He’s sure he'll find a replacement soon, an optimism that his more realistic wife (Rosemarie DeWitt) doesn’t share. His former colleague, Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper), worries that he’s next, while their boss, Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones), feels increasingly bereft by the failing economy and the layoffs that are destroying the company that he and his college roommate, now-CEO James Salinger (Craig T. Nelson), envisioned. None of them can predict the cost that all these changes will ultimately exact.
Is it any good?
A deeply empathetic film about men and women left unmoored after losing their jobs, it hits the right note. Hollywood sometimes glosses over the true impact of real-life struggles in the service of entertainment; THE COMPANY MEN, thankfully, does not. It tells a story that -- though nearly too tragic yet very familiar -- still needs to be told. Watching it is a sobering experience (and, it has to be said, pretty depressing).
Everyone in the cast plays it right, striking a strong balance between maudlin and true. Affleck begins the movie with a strut and ends it humbled but still standing, and Jones manages to stay sympathetic despite playing a character who, for the most part, is financially untouched by the winds of change. But it’s Cooper who’s most troubling, standing in for those who are truly devastated. The film may have its inadequacies -- a grating obviousness, for one -- but it’s a triumph, nevertheless, for a movie about defeated times.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about how movies (and other media) reflect the state of society. Should movies offer escapist entertainment, or do they have a duty to address real-life problems?
How do the characters change over the course of the movie? What do they learn? How does the way they identify themselves shift?
Do you think businesses owe loyalty to their employees or their shareholders? Are layoffs just part of business?