Bobby Walker (Affleck) is a corporate executive who has it all. Fabulous house? Check. Glamorous wife? Check. Porsche? Check. His only apparent worry is a deteriorating golf game that's causing him to lose face at the blue chip country club he repairs to whenever the mood takes him. At least that is his only worry until the day he walks into work to be handed his notice and a small storage box to help him clear out the contents of his desk. Suddenly this Master of the Universe is faced with the biggest challenge of his life: his inability to find gainful employment and the effect this is having on his young family.
Written and directed by John Wells, the scribe who cut his teeth on 'The West Wing' and 'ER', and is here making his debut behind the camera, 'The Company Men' looks at the effect of corporate downsizing on a number of characters.
What makes this film different from the many which have taken the after-effects of the banking crisis as their theme is the fact that this narrative concentrates on the men in suits and not on the little guys. That we're able to empathise at all with wealthy execs whose first decision in such a crisis is whether or not to sacrifice their sports cars is down to two things (a) Wells' skill as a writer and (b) superb performances from a cracking ensemble cast. Affleck's strong performance is complemented by brilliant turns from Tommy Lee Jones as the veteran exec with a heart, and Chris Cooper as another of the old guard who realises his chances of getting a job ahead of a crop of young, dynamic graduates is minimal (the employment gurus advise him to dye his hair and stop talking about Vietnam). Best of all, though, is Kevin Costner. The former Oscar-winner does his best work for years as Affleck's blue collar brother-in-law; a building contractor whom Affleck sniffily refuses to accept a job from at first before quickly realising that a job, any job, is vital for one's family and one's dignity.
There are plenty of popcorn movies on our screens this week offering aliens, chameleons in Hawaiian shirts and garden gnomes; 'The Company Men' offers something else. It's a thoughtful, intelligently written drama featuring some of Hollywood's finest, all of whom have clearly downsized their pay packets since the entire movie cost $15m to produce.
This one deserves to be seen.