Like all good recession films, The Company Men includes the requisite shots of desolate cubicles, empty shipyards, and gutted factories. But the camera lingers less on the desolation and more on the "things" that everyone is terrified of losing: the expansive view from the beachfront property, the Porsche purring through the suburban neighborhood, the swells of the golf course at the country club. The focus is fitting for a film that shows what is left of a man when the house, the car, and the club are stripped away.
Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck, above right) is a cocksure executive who loses his job at the corporation where he's invested his life. Losing his job also costs him his pride as he goes to work in construction with his brother-in-law (Kevin Costner). Due to its occasional veering into cheap sentimentality and cliché, The Company Men (rated R for strong language and sexual situations) falls short of our last recession film, Up in the Air. But its message, although simple, is solid.
Both businesses and individuals react to economic hardship in revelatory ways: Will the business sacrifice its employees for short-term survival, or will its leaders give up their hefty salaries and corporate jets instead? Will you do what it takes-even drive nails-to provide for your family, or will you snatch at the tatters of your success and cling to the belief that as long as you look successful, you are?
Chris Cooper and Tommy Lee Jones are perfectly cast as grizzled executives slaving for success only to see it disappear along with their self-worth. Rosemarie DeWitt, as always, brings vitality and toughness to her role as Walker's wife, Maggie. "You have me!" she reminds her husband when he calls himself a loser. The other men don't have someone with Maggie's bluntness and strength, so they drift unmoored.
Bobby Walker loses the "faith, courage, enthusiasm" that his career coach says will help him win. He has to face his identity as "a 37-year-old unemployed loser" to rediscover what will actually help him win: humility, self-sacrifice, and family.