29 September 2012 | bob the moo
The cast do well but it is a very tough sell and it doesn't quite manage it
This was a timely film given that the subject matter is the effect on men of losing their jobs and, as a result, their feelings of worth, their status within the world and to a certain extent their identity. It is not only timely in fact but it also had the potential to be very smart in regards the characters and the commentary on the challenges that start with money problems but go much deeper. To a certain extent the film manages to do this because it is at its best when it allows the characters to simply be on the screen and struggling with their situations, but there is a generalness to it that prevents it being consistently engaging and smart.
The nature of the characters is a big part of it – perhaps not for everyone but for most viewers the problems of laid off executives may not be the easiest subject to care too much about. I know ultimately they are all people, but the problems of those having to give up Ferraris or no longer being able to maintain the lavish lifestyle they once had is not the most accessible of things; and it is a problem that it never quite shakes off because again of this general approach. The characters are interesting still though and it is a decent stab at seeing the struggle of becoming unemployed after many years working, it just doesn't do it well enough. The main character comes over as arrogant and ungrateful for too long – it is necessary at first but later on it becomes grating as it combines with his own decision to live to the maximum of his means rather than being a little more modest and saving some of his large income. The older characters get away with this a bit more since their stories tend to be more about the emotional impact rather than events and this does buy the film some good material but not enough to make up for the weaknesses in its central character.
The cast help this a lot, even though they are nearly too distracting by how many famous faces there are. Affleck has the most time but does the least with it as he never manages to make a person from his situation and only just stops being annoying in time for a sentimental conclusion. Jones and Cooper are much better in their roles and they have more of the heart to play. Bello, Costner, Nelson and others are good in support; Walker is sadly only notable for how much weight he has put on since I first saw him in Oz.
The Company Men had potential to explore the male characters in a way that minimizes the distraction of their previous incomes however it doesn't quite manage it. The cast mostly do well but the central concept is too focused on events and too focused on an upbeat conclusion that the subject doesn't really merit.