Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) is living the proverbial American dream: great job, beautiful family, shiny Porsche in the garage. When corporate downsizing leaves him and co-workers Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper) and Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones) jobless, the three men are forced to re-define their lives as men, husbands and fathers.
Bobby soon finds himself enduring enthusiastic life coaching, a job building houses for his brother-in-law (Kevin Costner) that does not play to his executive skill set, and perhaps -- the realization that there is more to life than chasing the bigger, better deal. With humor, pathos, and keen observation, writer-director John Wells (the creator of "ER") introduces us to the new realities of American life.
In creating ER
, writer-director John Wells launched the career of George Clooney, who starred in Up in the Air
, which could serve as a prequel to The Company Men
. When times get tough, Boston shipping conglomerate GTX sheds employees--while CEO James Salinger (Craig T. Nelson) retains his $22 million salary. HR director Sally Wilcox (Maria Bello), the companion of married cofounder Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones, the standout in a strong cast), fires sales manager Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) during the first round of cuts. Though Bobby's wife, Maggie (Mad Men
's Rosemarie DeWitt), doesn't think any less of him, her husband feels like a failure. She returns to work, while Bobby enters a job placement program, but he only meets with rejection. During the next round, Sally fires Gene and Phil (Chris Cooper). While the former has a financial cushion, Phil's situation mirrors Bobby's, except he's 23 years older, making the situation more difficult. When Maggie's brother, Jack (Kevin Costner), offers Bobby a construction job, he declines--until fate forces his hand. He soon comes to find that Salinger's way of running a business isn't the only way. His education reflects the filmmaker's concern about men who define themselves by their jobs, but an underlying message involves overly confident execs who fail to save for a rainy day. The Company Men
charts the path of those who fail to adapt to a changing landscape, and those who do, making for a film that's far more sobering than depressing. --Kathleen C. Fennessy