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The Company Men DVD Review

The Company Men (2011) movie poster The Company Men

Theatrical Release: January 21, 2011 / Running Time: 104 Minutes / Rating: R / Songs List

Writer/Director: John Wells

Cast: Ben Affleck (Bobby Walker), Chris Cooper (Phil Woodward), Kevin Costner (Jack Dolan), Tommy Lee Jones (Gene McClary), Maria Bello (Sally Wilcox), Rosemarie DeWitt (Maggie Walker), Craig T. Nelson (James Salinger), Eamonn Walker (Danny), Anthony O'Leary (Drew Walker), Patricia Kalember (Cynthia McClary), Cady Huffman (Joanna), Tonye Patano (Joyce Robertson), John Doman (Dysert), Angela Rezza (Carson Walker), William Hill (Kevin Walker), Tom Kemp (Conal), Nancy Villone (Diane), Scott Winters (Ed), Sasha Spielberg (Sarah Woodward)

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Have you heard about this economy?! The Company Men has and it looks to put its finger on the pulse of the American worker.

It's just another day on the job for Boston sales manager Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck),
as he brags about the 86 he shot in his morning round of golf (hardy har). But seemingly out of nowhere, and in contrast to the protection he was promised, Bobby is fired from Global Transportation Systems, the multi-billion shipbuilding corporation where he's spent the last twelve years.

A husband and a father, 37-year-old Bobby quickly feels the financial crunch of his layoff. His homemaker wife (Rosemarie DeWitt) falls behind on his club membership dues while struggling to pay the home mortgage. A car gets repossessed. Worst of all, their teenaged son (Anthony O'Leary) has to return his Xbox. This drastic lattermost step is the final straw, causing Bobby to swallow his pride and accept a job in the construction crew of his blue-collar brother-in-law (Kevin Costner).

Suddenly fired after 12 years of high-paid work, Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) has to make major lifestyle changes while hunting for a new job. GTS founders Eugene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones) and James Salinger (Craig T. Nelson) no longer see eye to eye on the company's priorities.

Desperation drove Bobby to take such action. Because even though he's got an MBA, valuable business experience, 12 weeks of severance pay, and outplacement services on his side, times are tough. The film shrugs off fiscal irresponsibility and living beyond one's means (Bobby was earning $120,000 plus around $40,000 of incentives a year at GTX), passing the buck to the more appealing targets of high-paid higher-ups and those deciding who gets canned.

The Company Men contrasts Bobby's plight, often incongruously, with the perspectives of other corporate victims, teaching us that as hard as unemployment hits someone in his prime, it hits harder for those with enough experience to find themselves at an undesirable age. Representing the older generation is a veteran butt-kisser (Chris Cooper), who is advised to dye his hair and drop the pre-1990s accomplishments and self-dating "Vietnam" mention from his résumé.

There is also Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones), the more sympathetic of the company's two founders, who has gotten accustomed to lavish living (his unloved wife casually buys a $17,000 vintage table) but retains a strong conscience for his fallen brethren while sleeping with the human relations executive (Maria Bello) who's fired them. On the other hand, the callous top dog (Craig T. Nelson) cares about just one thing: the company stock price. He takes whatever measures are necessary (short of scaling back his $22 million salary) to keep shareholders happy.

Blue collar brother-in-law Jack (Kevin Costner) welcomes Bobby to his construction crew. Thirty-year company veteran Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper) suddenly finds himself the only one still working in his area.

The feature film writing and directing debut of network TV drama veteran John Wells (a scribe and executive producer on "ER" and "The West Wing", and the creator of "Third Watch"), The Company Men seems to have its heart in the right place.
Its head is somewhere else, as it personally, professionally, and financially unravels the lives of wounded men with the precision and subtlety of a jackhammer. Making little effort to truly humanize anyone, the film comes across pandering, exploitative, and out of touch, not going a single scene without raising a new hardship and another potential loss to be cut. Bobby and his fellow firees bond in the bleakness of their job hunts, subjecting them to obnoxiously loud career counselors, inconsiderate interview waits, and a super competitive market as their concerns and financial strains grow.

Watching this educated suit learn the value of an honest day's work hoisting heavy bags and wood boards is nauseating, not because the sight of back-breaking physical labor sickens but because recognizing the way the movie wants you to process it does. The whole movie is like that, telling you what to think and painting characters in broad strokes, good or bad (numbering most everyone we're seeing among the decent folks). Perhaps the issue is too fresh and unresolved to dramatize. I feel like if this wasn't a period we were all presently living through, I'd be much more receptive to the film. Without distance, though, it is sorely lacking in tact, perspective, and ambiguity.

Among the four major dramas to center on working class Boston types at the end of 2010 and into 2011, I'd rank The Company Men alongside the Hilary Swank lawyer film Conviction, both a far cry from the appealing heights of The Fighter and Affleck's acclaimed hit The Town. It may be as simple as the old show vs. tell divide; whereas the good two are able to make you empathize with complexity and authenticity, the on-the-nose other two acquire unnatural accents and pour on underdog obstacles with visions of Oscars dancing in their head.

The Company Men didn't even get a real shot at Oscar glory. Rightly sensing more award prospects in The King's Speech and Blue Valentine, seemingly always cash-strapped The Weinstein Company delayed the film's scheduled early December opening until late January, while supposedly still mounting a largely fruitless one-week 2010-qualifying run. The delay wasn't enough to earn the film notice at the box office, where it grossed a dismal $4.4 million, barely one-fourth of the production budget, in under 300-theater domestic release and adding almost nothing to it in a few foreign markets this spring. Hungry to find its audience, The Company Men comes to DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday.

The Company Men DVD cover art -- click to buy DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Video Extras Subtitled in English
Release Date: June 7, 2011
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.98
Black Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on Blu-ray Disc ($39.99 SRP)

VIDEO and AUDIO

In its third release of a Weinstein Company film, Anchor Bay treats The Company Men to a solid DVD transfer. Roger Deakins' visuals are desaturated and a bit cold, but the 1.78:1 widescreen picture remains clean and sharp throughout. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is largely unremarkable, delivering most dialogue cleanly in a straightforward fashion. English SDH subtitles are provided for the few lines uttered less intelligibly than you'd like.

A deleted scene further shows that Gene (Tommy Lee Jones) no longer has his heart in his marriage to the materialistic Cynthia (Patricia Kalember). John Wells discusses his feature film writing/directing debut in an audio commentary and this making-of featurette. Rosemarie DeWitt makes an appearance in the DVD main menu montage.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

The Company Men is joined by all the usual bonus features, beginning with an audio commentary by writer/director John Wells.
Probably aided by his lack of comparable previous experience, Wells does a good job of taking us inside the production process (which he claims occurred, perhaps mistakenly, way back in the spring of 2008). Wells speaks highly of his cast and crew members (e.g. calling Chris Cooper either the best actor of our time or one of the top four), but along with such celebration comes information, such as explaining what parts come directly from his research, detailing edits that were made following the film's 2010 Sundance premiere, and deconstructing things you wouldn't notice or expect, such as CGI environmental effects to fake the different seasons. The earnest, engaging remarks went some way to quell my dislike of the movie.

The subject of an unlikely slipcover sticker, an alternate ending (12:50) consists almost entirely of footage used in the latter parts of the film. It changes one detail, however, and reorders the scenes to close on a different type of high note.

Six deleted scenes run 7 minutes and 15 seconds collectively. They include an alternate opening in which cast credits are woven within insider stock trading golf course chat, moments of Gene with his wife and girlfriend, and Phil's (Cooper) demeaning denial to applying for a minimum wage pizza delivery job. They're all worth watching, but only one (a scene in which Bobby's father calls out his family's spending habits) would have added something useful.

The extras conclude with "The Making of The Company Men" (14:22), a standard featurette that's big on talking head comments from Wells and the cast, some of which it lays over movie clips that inexplicably look like low-res old school Internet streaming.

The disc opens with letterboxed trailers for The King's Speech and Blue Valentine. Where is The Company Men's own trailer? Not here.

The main menu montages filtered clips to very loud, upbeat score. Similarly-styled submenus are static and silent.

The uncut Eco-Box keepcase is topped by a nice but redundant cardboard slipcover and contains no inserts.

The financial woes of unemployment creates tension between Bobby (Ben Affleck) and semi-supportive wife Maggie (Rosemarie DeWitt). Dissatisfaction in the company he co-founded hangs on the face of Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones), as he makes a hard-hatted visit to the new offices' construction site.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Company Men frustrates more than lesser movies because it tackles a timely real topic like an insincere Hallmark sympathy card and isn't even as effective as that would be at relieving the pains of crisis. Seasoned actors try hard to make this take flight, but can't turn it into more than a researched dramatization of the struggles of unforeseen unemployment. Painting everything in black or white and holding your hand the whole way, John Wells' film generates minimal emotion and good will.

With a nice feature presentation and a decent collection of bonus features, Anchor Bay's DVD serves the film well, but the textbook movie won't likely lend itself to repeat viewings.

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Related Reviews:
New: A Thousand Clowns • The Firm (Blu-ray) • The Usual Suspects (Blu-ray Book)
Ben Affleck: Extract • Armageddon | Tommy Lee Jones: No Country for Old Men • In the Valley of Elah
Kevin Costner: Swing Vote • The Guardian | Chris Cooper: New York, I Love You | Maria Bello: Grown Ups
The Fighter • Gone Baby Gone • Morning Glory • The Apartment • Extraordinary Measures • Solitary Man

The Company Men Songs List: Future Islands - "Swept Inside", Forrest Fulmer - "Not the Sun", Future Islands - "Inch of Dust", The National - "Fake Empire", Eels - "On My Feet", Tamir Henderson Jazz Trio - "We Wish You a Merry Christmas", Eels - "Nowadays", The Marshall Tucker Band - "Can't You See", Mark Isham - "Drive to Mexico", The Doobie Brothers - "Long Train Runnin", Frightened Rabbit - "Not Miserable"

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Reviewed June 5, 2011.



Text copyright 2011 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2011 The Weinstein Company, Battle Mountain Films, Spring Creek Productions, and Anchor Bay Entertainment.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.