“The Company Men”
“The Company Men” is so real it hurts.
Ben Affleck plays Bobby Walker, a coat-and-tie up-and-coming junior
executive, who swaggers late into the staff meeting bragging that he just
shot an 84 on the club course. Everybody
sits in stunned silence. When
he jokes, “Who died?” he discovers that the news is even worse:
the company is downsizing. And
he’s suddenly “redundant.”
Obviously in denial, he tells his good wife, Maggie (Rosemarie De
Witt) not to cancel the club membership, don’t sell the house, and
especially, don’t sell his precious Porsche.
But, eventually, they all have to go, along with what’s left of
Bobby’s inflated self-image, as he ends up reluctantly accepting a job
offer from his prickly brother-in-law (Kevin Costner) as a carpenter’s
helper. Bobby started out
thinking he was too good to drive nails for a living.
By the time he serves as the “gopher” on the construction site,
he’s grateful for any kind of gainful employment, because he’s been
through the wringer: the
severance checks that have run out, the “employment office”
merry-go-round, the countless interviews and seemingly pointless telephone
follow-ups; the humiliating experience of constant personal rejection.
Once he thought he was too good for everyone else out there
job-hunting; now he feels a kind of camaraderie.
He has to move his family back home with his parents.
His wife takes on more shift work as a nurse.
And it’s small consolation that even more formerly high-flying
execs of the former corporate giant GVX are having their troubles, too:
his old boss, Phil (Chris Cooper), and even his boss, Gene (Tommy Lee
Jones), the right-hand man of the CEO himself.
But these are harsh times in corporate
. It’s all about the bottom
line. It’s all about pleasing
the stockholders. And it’s
all about those at the very top fashioning for themselves golden parachutes
in the form of lucrative stock options, while those let go for no particular
reason other than to make expenses look better now struggle with self-worth,
and with self-identity, with maintaining close relationships, and even with
Yes, suddenly being “downsized” can have a huge effect on any
family. Not many of us possess
the recommended six-month “cushion” of income socked away for hard
times, and even if we did, we would still face the prospect of
underemployment, or re-deployment, when so many jobs are “outsourced”
and corporate America is always looking to cut costs, and personnel, of
course, collectively represent the greatest cost to most any organization.
What good is long-tenured loyalty?
Well, it might get you a slightly longer severance package.
But don’t count on it. What
good are long-standing relationships at work?
Don’t kid yourself; all they want to know is when the hammer’s
going to fall on them. In the
end, what you have is the love of your family, and your own willingness to
re-direct yourself: maybe
acquire a little humility, maybe get over yourself and give up some of your
non-necessities, maybe get over yourself a little more and be willing to do
some work that you formerly thought was beneath you, or you’d “been
there done that,” maybe swallow some pride for the purpose of remaining
active and productive, if not for the sake of your family, then for the sake
of your own self-esteem. Sure,
it’s a shock. But maybe one
that will have unintended benefits: like
closer relationships with your family, after you learn that they really are
with you through thick and thin. There’s
no price on that.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace