Someday there will be a film festival of movies about the Great Recession, just as there have been festivals over the years devoted to Depression-era movies. Most of these movies, then and now, are far more interesting as sociology than as art.
With this in mind, you might want to wait for that hypothetical festival rather than hand over your hard-earned cash to see “The Company Men,” starring Ben Affleck as Bobby Walker, a hotshot executive at a Boston-based manufacturing corporation who is suddenly laid off. The writer-director John Wells hauls out all of the standard tropes – the grim motivational training seminars, the unfeeling CEO (Craig T. Nelson), Bobby’s aged co-worker (Chris Cooper) who joins him in the cold, etc. – but despite the all-too-harrowing familiarity of these scenes, they seem more like illustrations than dramatizations of trauma.
A curious white-collar/blue-collar dichotomy is at work in this film: Bobby finds recompense and redemption in his surly brother-in-law’s building construction business. (Kevin Costner plays the brother-in-law.) Are we supposed to think that only those people who “work with their hands” are safe in this economy? Grade: B- (Rated R for language and brief nudity.)