In the Company of Men (Review)

7/10
Dir. Neil LaBute
Starring: Aaron Eckhart (Chad); Stacey Edwards (Christine); Matt Malloy (Howard)
1997
97 minutes

Should You See This Film?
Yes, I think I could recommend this to most of you. Let me explain why. I’ve been disappointed by seeing films that require a lot of time and reflection before any interesting and meaningful conversations can take place. Well, this is a good film that I feel would lead to some interesting discussion right after the film. If that sounds appealing, I think you should check this out, especially with a group of people.

I also found the film really compelling to watch. The film is focussed (no unecessary characters or scenes), most of the it being dialogue. The acting is excellent and the scenes keep your attention, even if you may not exactly enjoy them. I wasn’t too enthusiastic about watching this film because of the premise, but the film quickly hooked me. If I just rated the film on the film’s hold on me while watching it, I’d probably give it an 8. However, the ending disappointed me a bit, so the film dropped down to a seven.

What is this about? Basically, the film involves two middle managers who are so frustrated with their position and status. The last straw is their loss of privilege and power they feel towards the opposite sex (i.e. feminism in the form of sexual harassment lawsuits in the 90s). The come up with a scheme to woo the most vulnerable female (at the same time) and then dump her when she starts really falling for them. If that makes you laugh because it’s so over-the-top, then you’ll probably appreciate the film a lot more.

Personal Comments
There are three things that stand out. First, I liked the way the film tapped into a feeling of powerlessness and frustration that may have peaked for many white, middle-managers in 90’s corporate America. There are typical reasons middle-managers feel frustrated–the inability to rise up the ladder and the feeling of being passed over, etc. , but the last straw may have been the rise of minorities and women, and consequentely, the loss of traditionally easy and available targets for these white males. What Eckhart does with this premise ultimately disappointed me, but the journey was quite compelling.

That’s the second thing I liked about the film. The very good acting and solid dialogue hooked me fairly quickly. As the film progressed the tension and squirm factor increased; I can’t recall when I’ve felt this uncomfortable and tense. The sensation made me think of horror films. There was also a level of suspense about the what the characters actually felt and the way the film would end.

By the way, of the actors, I really liked Aaron Eckhart’s performance the most. If I had seen this in ’97 I would have called him a rising star. The dialogue is solid in the film, but you can tell Eckhart’s acting is taking the dialogue to another level. He’s cruel and shallow in an over-the-top and believeable (unlike Ricky Jervais and the actors in The Office) way–which made him funny. At the same time, he was able to play charmy seducer so effectively, I wasn’t sure if he falling for female character in question.

Discussion
Q: Is the film and filmmaker misogynistic?
A: From my point of view, I would say the film and filmmaker are not misogynistic. At least one of the characters is, but even then I think the character is more about power and the amoral and egocentric exercise of it, more than misogyny or racism.

Q: What is the film about?
A: Ultimately, I think the film is about men feeling the loss of power–in the workplace and society–and the frustration that builds as a result. Part of what makes this film so resonant is that I think many men feel or felt this way.

1 Response to “In the Company of Men (Review)”


  1. Mitchell

    One of the best things about this film is the way it’s shot. Most of the first thirty minutes of the movie is a series of one-camera shots with little (if any) camera movement. We see the two characters on a plane; we see them in a lounge, we see them in a bar, and it is left to the dialogue and the actors to keep you interested. Since there is no action in these scenes, the focus is on dialogue and character and it’s all very interesting. There’s even one seen, in an airport, where the camera and actors do move (they are walking through a terminal), but since the camera is following at the same pace as the actors’ gaits, the characters stay in the same place in the frame; the only thing moving is really the background.

    It was a great way to open a film and it sets up the rest of the film quite well.

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