Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck, The Town) is the “best damn salesman on the east.” He has successfully climbed the ladder at GTX, a global shipping company, earning a great base salary and amazing sales commissions. But when GTX takes a financial hit at the start of the economic crisis, his high pay grade waves a huge red flag to management as they look to make budget cuts. Why pay so much to an experienced pro when you can hire two cheap employees less money to do the same job? And Bobby is laid off.
With a resume like his, you would expect Bobby to easily land a job anywhere, right? Wrong. His strong resume spells out one thing to hiring managers – expensive. And because nearly every business in the industry is crippled to the point of budget cuts and streamlining, nobody can afford him. Unemployed and broke, with the bills stacking up, Bobby is helpless. His foolish optimism in time of despair works against him. Offered a construction job by his blue collar brother (Kevin Costner, Dances with Wolves), Bobby’s pride of education and experience will not let him stoop down to a Good Will Hunting level. His wife (Rosemary DeWitt, Rachel Getting Married) is forced to get back into nursing, his children are asked to sacrifice hobbies and they even eventually have to sell their beautiful suburban home to move in with nearby family.
The main complaint I have heard critics gripe about since The Company Men‘s premiere at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival concerns the upper class characters. “If you are going to show people hit hard by the economic crisis, why not make the characters average people that the average audience can sympathize with?” While I understand that complaint, I do not see it as a solid basis for criticism for two reasons: one, during the Great Depression, movie theaters were seen as an escape. Jobless people flocked to them to get away from their troubles. If the same could be said for today, why would they want to pay to see their own problems on screen? It is a hard enough thing to watch portrayed on the big screen anyways, so why rub salt in the wound by bringing it so close to home?
Two, it is socially unifying to see an upper class hero brought down by the same plague that is cursing the lower working class. After 9/11, no matter your skin color, profession or class, this nation was unified. Tragic massive events bring people together. Although the economic collapse has not had as strong of a nation-unifying impact as did 9/11, there is no reason why it shouldn’t. More Americans have been personally affected by the economic crisis than 9/11. The Company Men strengthens that bond not only in our world, but in the world of Bobby Walker too. (Do think that I am making light the events of 9/11 – I am simply
talking about the unifying social effect of 9/11, not demeaning the
Most of all, the story of Bobby Walker, his co-workers (Chris Cooper, The Town, and Eamonn Walker, Oz) and his bosses (Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive, and Craig T. Nelson, Coach) in The Company Men teaches the moral lessons of integrity, humility, endurance and sacrifice. It is not as much of a downer as it initially appears to be. The Company Men not only shows us the problem, but offers the solution to making it out on the other side. Adding the strength of the intimate script with fantastic performances around the board, The Company Men is one of the most important films of 2010.
Photo credit: The Weinstein Company