They say, “The bigger you are, the harder you fall.” Also, the higher you are on the corporate ladder, the further you plummet. In “The Company Men,” the big-shots at the fictional GTX Corporation, fall far and hit hard.
Hollywood’s most recent Recession meltdown movie focuses on the misery of the top dogs losing their country club memberships, suburban estates and Porsches when Wall Street took a nosedive in 2008. It’s one that the Average Joes won’t relate to, but may enjoy for sheer retaliatory glee. As such, selfemployed carpenter Jack Dolan (Kevin Costner) could gloat when giving his onetime $160,000-a-year-earning brother-in-law Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) a back-breaking job. He doesn’t. In fact, he pays him an extra $200 a week out of his own pocket.
In addition to Bobby, two even bigger shots, GTX co-founder Gene McClarey (Tommy Lee Jones) and pushing 60 exec Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper), are surprised to see their pink slips. Shirting disaster is tippy top honcho James Salinger (Craig T. Nelson), who wields the downsizing axe while maintaining his $22 million salary and building himself a new luxurious corporate office. Like Gene, he’s a GTX co-founder.
Taking his first-time try at directing, John Wells (producer of TV’s “E.R.” and “The West Wing”) pulls no punches here with a thoroughly depressing look at free-fall in a shrinking economy. Jones plays the veteran, still grasping at a moral code, longing for the days of loyalty and actual manufacturing. Once a blue collar factory worker, Cooper’s Phil has climbed to the highest heights, only to find himself staring into the abyss (“My life ended and nobody noticed”).
Bobby is the most tragic. At 37 with two young kids and a loving wife, he soon learns that his college degrees and résumé aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on or the time wasted e-mailing to nowhere. He can’t even make money off the $880,000 sale of his mansion because, mortgage-wise, he’s underwater.
“The Company Men” concludes with a “feel-good” ending that is too pathetically optimistic to be believable. The only upbeat aspect for the Average Joe audience member is the relief at never having the privilege of falling from the highest heights.