Friday, March 10, 2017


Written & Directed By: John Wells 
Cinematography By: Roger Deakins 
Editor: Robert Frazen 

Cast: Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper, Maria Bello, Rosemarie DeWitt, Kevin Costner, Craig T. Nelson, Eammon Walker, Cady Huffman 

The story centers on a year in the life of three men trying to survive a round of corporate downsizing at a major company - and how that affects them, their families, and their communities.

This film means well but to a certain degree misses it's mark. As it was made in response to the financial crisis that was happening in the country. Which makes it still referential in today's political climate, but while good intentioned it expects the audience to identify and feel more for the white collar employees.

It shows they have more to lose to a degree after having risen so far and now are brought down. Especially with having to find work that they are too qualified for and having to take drastic pay cuts. Which gives you the feeling that his film was aimed at a particular audience who say this as fearful or could identify more with the characters. Maybe people they feel would go to art theaters and watch this type of film.

The film positions Ben Affleck's character as an audience car surrogate. As we watch him get laid off in the beginning and whose confidence and assuredness slowly dwindles as he can't afford to put food on the table. The fact that he never considered selling his Porsche and house until near the middle of the film is quite ridiculous, but tries to show some sort of masculinity all the characters have been brought up with. Where as to be a true man you have to be able to single handedly provide for your family anything less is not really being. A man and you can't accept any help.

As the film goes along Ben Affleck soon has to take a more MRI all job working for brother in law who is more blue collar and has to put in a hard day's work more physically. This is where the more middle class is represented in the film as more salt of the earth types and always forgiving. Especially as we watch Affleck's budding friendship with another out of work engineer who he shares a cubicle with at an unemployment center.

The other main characters are Chris Cooper's company man who is older and loses his job more towards the middle of the film and finds the job market or as open or willing for a man of his age who is willing to beg, and grovel just to have a corporate job and whose wife makes him go out and stay away from home so the neighbors don't find out he is unemployed. He is the more sad sack of the film. Who plays to the older demographic. As he seems to not have put any money away. And after all these years of boot licking and ass kissing has very little to show for it.

Finally we have Tommy Lee Jones character who is the most successful and seems to be wealthiest of all of them. Whose firing seems more because he stuck up for the employees and dared to question is it really worth it and worst helped start the company and is fired by his best friend. His character is the upright character of the film but also the one with the least to lose and at a certain point leaves his wife as she was never there and her character seems to be pricked on for having grown comfortable and represents his old corporate mentality. Where as his younger girlfriend seems to represent rebirth and fairness. Even though she is assigned to let people go at their old company.

Though with his character though he fights in the end he still makes profit off of these lay offs. So he is almost as guilty as his business partner who is meant to represent corporate greed with no conscience played by Craig T. Nelson

The film tries to have manipulation of feelings in a lot of scenes which don't exactly work. Nor is John Wells direction particularly strong for a story that involves such strong emotions and scenes. As the scenes come off more smooth and flat with no root or raw emotion. So as it tries to be melodramatic. It's hard to really get to deep into sorrow. You feel sorry for them but know either what will happen or that eventually they will be all right.

The film is pretty liberal but more represents an elevated community rather than the status quo. As the characters are all linked by working for the same company. I only wish the film would have spent some time with more of a common worker or more blue collar worker and show how they have to handle suddenly being laid off and having to take an even worse position at some other business. That might have hit home a bit more and guaranteed maybe the film getting a wider release as a film that feels and speaks more to all audiences. Though they seem to try and make up for it by having those types of characters more in the background.

This feels like the film IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH, a film that was meant to explain and say something, but either missed the point or was misdirected to a degree. So that you can see it's earnestness but can't help it also point out it's flaws. Even for all it's well meaning.

The film also goes on for too long. As many times it feels episodic. Which by the end you might understand why the film is directed that way but takes too long to get there as it seeks to show growth and a journey. It feels like it could have ended plenty of times. But seems to keep going on as it wants these characters to either suffer or be shaken up more. Especially as one character gives a speech about how working a blue collar job has changed his outlook for the better but by the end totally goes against that and goes back to work at a corporate job because of another talking to by another character.

It would be interesting to see what an Igmar Bergman type director would do with this film where it would be all about the emotion, intent and character as well as feeling moment to moment.

It's an entertaining film that tries to be a tragedy but seeks to uplift and give the audience hope. It's not a boring film or necessarily a bad film. Just a film that is hard to exactly identify with. As it gets it and has some points just never quite convincing in it's sermon. The film feels as it has way too many feel good moments. Especially by the end.

Grade: C+

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