SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL REVIEWS - THE COMPANY MEN
by Paul Fischer
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We live in uncertain times in this recession filled America and that world of corporate greed and those who are tragic victims are sharply explored in The Company Men, an impressive directorial debut by one time television producer John Wells.
This powerful Wells-scripted drama centres on Bobby Walker [Ben Affleck], a hot-shot sales executive who is living the idyllic life with the fat pay check, the beautiful wife, member of the local golf club, two kids and the proverbial suburban mortgage. Out of the blue he becomes a victim of corporate downsizing. His boss, and founder of the company, [a stellar performance from Tommy Lee Jones] doesn’t take Bobby’s severance well, and he storms into the boardroom to demand a reprieve of the severe measures, but as he will discover, some things are out of his control especially when it comes to appeasing shareholders.
It was inevitable that a film would be made that explores this new corporatized, Wall St infested new America, and Wells’ own frustrations and anger have been thoughtfully explored in this insightful, well executed drama. As a writer, Wells has fashioned a script that not only reflects on the desperation of unemployment, but who takes his central character on a journey of his own self-discovery ultimately asking the question: What is important in life and what are my priorities? Yet Wells doesn’t provide simplistic answers because not all of his characters are strong enough to face those questions.
By casting Ben Affleck as the symbol of Wall Street middle class success whose all-American dream is shattered, Wells has cast an actor who has probably appeared at his own crossroads. Affleck shines as Bobby Walker, a man whose self-confidence is brutally shattered but survives only after some major soul searching. It’s an exquisite, deft and emotively rich performance that speaks volumes with eyes and gesture, and whose anguish is palpable but not overdone.
Tommy Lee Jones is always fascinating to watch and as he embarks on his journey, one peppered with an infidelity that confirms his masculinity, Jones gives a vivid performance as does a magnificent Chris Cooper, the tragic, bitter employee who has no idea what the world is going through amidst this so-called globalisation.
The Company Men is a film that delves into these issues yet writer/director Wells does not imbue his film with simplistic answers or hit his audience over the head. Superbly and elegantly crafted, this directorial debut is an impressive achievement as it combines intricate characterization with narrative depth and cohesion.
Paul Fischer is originally from Australia. Now he is an interviewer and film critic living in Hollywood.
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