"Essentially a horror film for the white-collar workers over 50, The Company Men follows three suits (Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper) trying to come to terms with widespread downsizing at their company." Cinematical's Erik Davis: "Relatable (especially during these tough economic times), yes, but only for those who can relate to people who make well over six figures a year, live in beautiful mansions, fly around in private jets and belong to the most prestigious of country club golf courses. The film does touch on the depressing blue-collar lifestyle as well (so if you're making under a hundred grand a year, there's your 'in'), and by the time we're handed an overall message that it's not what you do, but who you do it for, The Company Men breezes past its finish line with relative ease before leaving its audience to call home to say I love you."
"Surprisingly somber and complex, the film nails the quiet desperation of joblessness with minimal cloying and very few attempts at artificial uplift," blogs Bilge Ebiri for Vulture. "It's the movie Up in the Air should have been." More at IFC.
"A comparison between the two films is hard to avoid," blogs Karina Longworth at Voice Film. "Like Air, Men focuses on beneficiaries of American boomtimes thrown into a soul search by a seemingly endless run of layoffs.... Both films treat corporate culture as an aphrodisiac, although Men's literal interpretation of that metaphor is far less romantic than Air's (and less blinkered). There's even a character-setting montage in Men describing the morning routines of its three main men that, with its insert shots and object fetishism, recalls Air's visual valentines to efficiency. Finally, if Men, the film directorial debut of TV producer John Wells (ER, The West Wing), is superior to that previous film festival hit in most areas of craft (particularly screenwriting and cinematography, credited to Wells and Roger Deakins, respectively), it's also mercifully free of the smug superiority that Jason Reitman injects into his portrait of corporate America in meltdown."
"Forget for a moment the whole Oscar-race chatter orbiting George Clooney's dramedy," writes Movieline's ST VanAirsdale; "as portraits of post-employment malaise, bitterness, paranoia and humility go, writer-director John Wells seems to have a qualitatively better grasp on these themes than any narrative film I've yet seen. Beyond the on-the-nose hallmarks of a TV writer turned dramatic filmmaker (the film's dubious CEO actually says things like 'Call up human resources, have 'em start making up a list for another round of downsizing'), Men transcends its occasional emo shortcuts with an uncompromising sense of accountability."
For the Boston Globe's Wesley Morris, though, "These are characters and scenarios that on TV would grow with the passing of a broadcast season but in a movie feel limited by the occupational hazard of having to tie things up. It's awfully safe movie, and that tidiness keeps a pretty good movie from being better. It's a television pilot for a show I would happily watch."
"Wells doesn't let a single 'the upper middle class have it tough too' or 'our families are the real wealth' moment slip past him," writes Noel Murray at the AV Club, "so thank goodness he has a skilled cast on hand to flesh out something so schematic, and imbue it with real anxiety, real shame, real humility."
More from Tim Grierson in Screen ("too dramatically diluted to be consistently involving"), Patrick Z McGavin at Emanuel Levy's place ("the more fitting and exacting comparison is Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Tokyo Sonata, in the often expert way it anatomizes the profound sense of frustration, disappointment and failure of the professional class"), Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman ("shrewd, juicy, timely, and terrifically engrossing") and John Wildman at Movie City News: "Let's face it, if you are at Sundance then you likely were able to afford coming to Sundance. So losing those 'privileges' should speak to a lot of people here. I bet a lot of folks will reflect deeply on it as they hang out at their condo parties."
John Horn talks with Wells for the Los Angeles Times.
Update: "American movies rarely catch the American male so nakedly powerless and shattered," writes the Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt.
Coverage of the coverage: Sundance 2010. For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow @theauteursdaily (RSS).