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The Circle Bastiat

'Company Men' shows reality of job loss

The film gives a realistic look at how job loss can cause loss of identity and purpose.

By Douglas FrenchGuest blogger / March 4, 2011

Tommy Lee Jones and Ben Afleck are shown in a scene still of the newly released movie "The Company Men." Guest blogger Douglas French writes that the film gives an accurate portrayal of how losing a job can affect a man's life.

Company Men Productions/Album/Newscom

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All of a half dozen people turned out to see The Company Men the other night at the local theater. The film has been hammered by critics and hasn’t yet grossed $4 million. However, the film, with a production budget of $15 million, and plenty of star power with Ben Affleck, Kevin Costner and Tommy Lee Jones, has a story that is much better than the critics appreciate.

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Not many movie critics can relate to a character that went to the right school and earned an MBA because that is supposed to guarantee career success. None of them played the corporate game well enough to become regional sales manager at 37 and make a buck twenty a year plus bonus, have a Porsche, a big house, country club membership, a boy, a girl, and size zero wife, Patriots season tickets, and all the associated debt and obligations that go with it.

So when Bobby (Affleck) strolls into the boardroom, proudly announcing to his sales staff that he shot 44 on the front and 42 on the back that morning, but then in the next minute is called into human resources and canned, with GTX (the fictional conglomerate) only paying 12 weeks salary plus out placement services, he’s stunned.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief then proceed. Denial: Bobby thinks he’ll get a job right away. No reason for belt tightening. Anger: Bobby believes the company screwed him after 13 years of loyal service and division head Gene McClary (Jones) betrayed him. Bargaining: OK, Bobby resigns himself to cutting back on expenses and he goes to work for the smug brother-in-law he hates (Costner), humping plywood and buckets of mortar up multiple flights of stairs each day. Depression: Bobby losses interest in the bedroom and tells his wife he’s sorry he let her down. Acceptance: Bobby and wife Maggie (Rosemarie DeWitt) spend more time with each other and the kids, while Bobby starts to actually enjoy his construction job.

In the meantime, close to sixty year-old Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper) is fired as GTX continues to further downsize. Woodward started out as a riveter in the ship yard and had worked his way up to senior management. The company was everything to him. His wife suffers from migraines and is not really part of his life, while his daughter is still in college with hefty tuition payments required to keep her there.