By: Oberst von Berauscht (Four Beers) –
Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) is a junior executive for a major corporation based in Boston, Massachusetts.He has everything you could ask for, a six figure salary (plus bonuses), an expensive house, and a loving family.All this is jeopardized when he, along with over three thousand other employees, is laid off.The film also follows corporate execs Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper) and Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones) as they act all depressed at not being able to stop the firings, before eventually being laid off as well.
So anyway, Bobby eventually is “reduced” to working for his brother-in-law in the carpentry business.
I will give credit where credit is due and say that director/screenwriter John Wells is clearly trying hard to make a statement about corporate layoffs in a recession economy.And some of what he does manages to pull at your heartstrings and “inspire”.The actors all do what they can to get emotion out of their characters.But ultimately, the flaws in the film are not with the script, but the concept.The cinematography is also very good, creating the right melancholy mood you’d expect for a film that deals with such heavy material.
Director Wells seemed to be going for the Frank Capra approach to filmmaking here.The film focuses on an everyman character, who when faced with adversity is initially unsuccessful in overcoming it.But he eventually faces his fears to realize the full potential in himself.Despite Wells’ attempts to make Bobby Walker an everyman, this approach cannot succeed due to the self-defeating premise of making a man in a Porsche “average”.Not only this, but the character is downright offensive.
In one scene he takes a job interview and, upon realizing that the job he’s applying for carries a $60,000 salary, insults the interviewer and walks out in a huff.Just for context, the median personal annual income for workers age 25+ according to the U.S. Census Bureau for 2009 was $32,140.And then there is the wonderful scene where he shouts his wife down for failing to pay the Country Club dues.
Kevin Costner feels underutilized here as Bobby’s blue-collar brother-in-law.He runs a construction business and works hard to keep afloat and to pay his employees.He even takes jobs to keep his men working over the winter, even if he won’t make any money on the projects.Costner gives the role a world-weary, beer-swilling feel.His character is the kind that this sort of movie should follow.
This brings me to my next point:
The whole film is simply wrong-headed.Are we really supposed to feel empathy for rich executives who couldn’t bother to put some of their money aside for a rainy day? Character Phil Woodward is the worst offender.A former shipbuilder who worked his way up to corporate executive status, he of all the people in the film should have known better.Chris Cooper is a great character actor, and it can only be the fault of the screenwriter/director for failing to salvage what should have been a tragic story.
Gene McClary is a little better, Tommy Lee Jones’ character isn’t looking for sympathy, or empathy, but rather his character realizes the devastating impact corporations can have on working people.And being a senior executive, he confronts his friend and CEO multiple times about the problem, and is eventually let go as a result.
The film concludes with the most saccharine denouement in recent memory.Tommy Lee Jones’ character uses his considerable wealth to start a new shipbuilding business, and hires back what appears to be just about every extra fired from the company and Ben Affleck takes a job there, hiring his friends he met at the unemployment office.Because all you need to do is wish upon a star and your millionaire friend will make everything all better.
The ultimate failure of the film is that it never manages to create a sense of outrage for the disassembly of the American workforce.The movie clearly sets out to do so, even ending with newsreaders talking about the financial crisis, and how it is affecting the country.Instead, the movie chooses to soft pedal, never exploring the impact the crisis has on the average worker.And for that, this film is a sad result and a missed opportunity.
Downsized, and moved to China
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time Ben Affleck complains about not being able to appear rich
Take a Drink: for every job interview scene
Down a Shot: every time Affleck makes a spoiled financial decision that does nothing but lead his family into poverty