By: Henry J. Fromage (A Toast) –
I just learned of the existence of filmmaker Neil LaBute awhile ago, although it turned out he had been responsible for one of the most balls-ass insane cinematic experiences I have ever had. I’ll save that little peach for the end of the review, so stick around.
Anyway, enough sources had told me that In the Company of Men was worth my time that I decided to give it a shot. I didn’t know what to expect, but when I saw LaBute was a Mormon and that Aaron Eckhart was starring, I prepared myself for something wholesome.
That face just makes you want to get straight in the kitchen and bake it a pie…
… which is exactly what it wants you to do, that is, if you’re a woman. The movie centers on Eckhart’s character’s utterly, irredeemably misogynist worldview, which he uses to convince a co-worker (Matt Malloy) he just lost a promotion to (and who just got dumped) to join him in a horrible devil’s bargain. Eckhart’s also been recently dumped, and he proposes that they choose an innocent girl to woo, and then crush her by simultaneously ditching her. They settle on a pretty, deaf secretary from their company, and the ball gets rolling…
Aaron Eckhart is flat-out amazing. The only performance I can liken it to is Christian Bale’s Patrick Bateman, but Eckhart steers clear of the operatic excesses and forges a sociopath that is chilling and methodical. Instead of chainsaws, he wields an acerbic wit and the willingness to plumb the depths of any evil just to see what it feels like. So, instead of kicking Grandma, he’d use her Alzheimers to mentally destroy her grandson, then make sure she learns that anew every day until she dies.
Fuck you and your butterscotches!
Now, Eckhart never goes so far as murder or anything like that, his manipulation is more subtle and far more cruel. Malloy and Stacy Edwards as their victim give good performances as well, but the caustic script does the most favors to Eckhart. The dialogue is sharp and funny, but in a way where you’ll hate yourself after laughing. The film originally drew a bit of controversy for ‘its’ chauvinistic worldview, from people completely missing the point. It’s a scathing send-up of the male-dominated corporate world on top of roasting racism, misogynist thinking, and prejudice towards the handicapped.
The film ends in a shocking third-act twist that is very difficult to see coming but true to the film while still casting everything that came before in a different light. Saying anything more would be a disservice, but I can’t recommend this enough.
Oh, and now for that LaBute clip I mentioned. You see, when you have indie success, Hollywoodcomes calling. The results aren’t always pretty, or in this case within a ten foot pole of sane, but as long as you make sure Nic Cage is involved, they can be magical.
Okay, so this isn’t helping the ‘LaBute hates misogynists’ theory much
If you don’t have trouble distinguishing between things that were meant to show how offensive thing can be and things that actually are offensive, then you should be able to appreciate this dynamite script and Eckhart’s bravura performance.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time Aaron Eckhart’s smile doesn’t reach his eyes
Take a Drink: every time Eckhart says something absolutely horrible
Drink a Shot: if that then makes you laugh (you are a terrible person- now take another)