Review: The Company Men

Director: John Wells (“E.R.”)
Writer: John Wells
Producers: Claire Rudnick Polstein, Paula Weinstein, John Wells
Starring: Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Craig T. Nelson, Chris Cooper, Maria Bello, Kevin Costner, Rosemarie DeWitt
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 104 min.


There really isn’t any way of describing how terrible this film is without getting into specific spoiler territory so I’ll try to brush over some of the overall problems with the movie without getting too detailed. Suffice it to say that this film is trying so darn hard to be relevant and informative that it instantly becomes irrelevant, a product of its own past and something that has already aged terribly. Up in the Air, this is not. It’s full of corny, overwrought clich├ęs that are so heavy handed that I couldn’t help but bust into laughter as I verbally recalled the story to my girlfriend two hours after leaving the theater.

The story is essentially about a bunch of corporate execs that lose their job due to downsizing and are having a hard time coping with their 12 weeks of full pay and benefits at a $120,000+ a year. They have a hard time finding employment in this downtrodden economy (yeah, the $60,000/year job just isn’t good enough) and several of them end up either sitting around all day feeling sorry for themselves, learning the value of an “honest” day’s work or just giving up entirely. Or in Chris Cooper’s case, getting drunk and throwing rocks at the office building while screaming obscenities in the middle of the night. It’s pretty dramatic stuff – it’s just like Jenny in Forrest Gump.
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Review: Up In The Air

UpInTheAir-tiffStill

George Clooney has come full circle in his stardom. Getting a romantic and engaging ‘time-out’ with Jennifer Lopez after she blows off a couple of traveling corporate types flirting in the lounge, his character in the latest Jason Reitman comedy, Ryan Bingham, is exactly one of those transient and boring corporate drones. Being George Clooney (particularly in a suit) he still manages to find a willing and no-strings-attached lady friend in the gorgeous and mature Vera Farmiga. But I am getting ahead of myself here, Ryan makes a living downsizing employees for corporations timid (for personal or legal reasons) of doing the dirty work (involuntary severance packages). This means a lot of time on the road between auto companies and banking institutions, you know the places hit the hardest in late 2008.

Bingham has also downsized his own life, whether because of the emotional toll his job takes (albeit is is damn good at it), or for other less clear reasons, to become the self-described “wealthiest homeless man in America.” No long term relationships and little connection with his extended family, he is happy to only spend a small fraction of the year in his tiny barely adorned apartment. Instead his existence is all transience and freedom; in hotel suites, courtesy lounges and other travel-holding zones across America. All the while collecting loyalty points. Lots and lots of Loyalty points. It is not the money or the ability to travel around the world several times on his accumulated tally, it is the status of the thing. He is proud and confident to skip airport and check-in, to board and exit airports in the most efficient manner possible rewarded by his status, but also has the goal of hitting a point total that earns him a recognition only 7 other people have achieved in their lifetime (“less than have walked on the moon”) and he is well under 50.

Much like his life, his baggage is smallest of carry on bags packed efficiently with neat, anonymous suits and toiletries. Rolling smoothly along from town to town he also gives paid talks on how to be the most efficient business traveler, using an empty backpack as a metaphor for mobility and movement as a metaphor for life. Material things like a house or a car weigh you down, and relationships are the heaviest, he pontificates to the other road warriors. The philosophy he spouts in his ballroom seminars is practically a pithy and institutionalized version of Tyler Durden’s 20th century ‘freedom-from-stuff monologues’ in Fight Club. Ironic that Bingham (the shiny mirror image of ragged Durden) is often wearing that cornflower blue tie to match his pressed suits. Philosophy is so malleable these days.

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TIFF 09 Review: Up In The Air

UpInTheAir-tiffStill

George Clooney has come full circle in his stardom. Getting a romantic and engaging ‘time-out’ with Jennifer Lopez after she blows off a couple of traveling corporate types flirting in the lounge, his character in the latest Jason Reitman comedy, Ryan Bingham, is exactly one of those transient and boring corporate drones. Being George Clooney (particularly in a suit) he still manages to find a willing and no-strings-attached lady friend in the gorgeous and mature Vera Farmiga. But I am getting ahead of myself here, Ryan makes a living downsizing employees for corporations timid (for personal or legal reason) of doing the dirty work (involuntary severance packages). This means a lot of time on the road between auto companies and banking institutions, you know the places hit the hardest in late 2008.

Bingham has also downsized his own life, whether because of the emotional toll his job takes (albeit is is damn good at it), or for other less clear reasons, to become the self-described “wealthiest homeless man in America.” No long term relationships and little connection with his extended family, he is happy to only spend a small fraction of the year in his tiny barely adorned apartment. Instead his existence is all transience and freedom; in hotel suites, courtesy lounges and other travel-holding zones across America. All the while collecting loyalty points. Lots and lots of Loyalty points. It is not the money or the ability to travel around the world several times on his accumulated tally, it is the status of the thing. He is proud and confident to skip airport and check-in, to board and exit airports in the most efficient manner possible rewarded by his status, but also has the goal of hitting a point total that earns him a recognition only 7 other people have achieved in their lifetime (“less than have walked on the moon”) and he is well under 50.

Much like his life, his baggage is smallest of carry on bags packed efficiently with neat, anonymous suits and toiletries. Rolling smoothly along from town to town he also gives paid talks on how to be the most efficient business traveler, using an empty backpack as a metaphor for mobility and movement as a metaphor for life. Material things like a house or a car weigh you down, and relationships are the heaviest, he pontificates to the other road warriors. The philosophy he spouts in his ballroom seminars is practically a pithy and institutionalized version of Tyler Durden’s 20th century ‘freedom-from-stuff monologues’ in Fight Club. Ironic that Bingham (the shiny mirror image of ragged Durden) is often wearing that cornflower blue tie to match his pressed suits. Philosophy is so malleable these days.

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Steven Soderbergh’s The Informant Trailer

theinformantAfter the experimental and sharp The Girlfriend Experience, Steven Soderbergh is back to his glossy, goofy self and graduating a puffy and mustachioed Matt Damon into the (oddly enough) “George Clooney role in a Coen Brothers movie”tm. Corporate farce, heist, and light comedy, The Informant is operating somewhere between The Ocean’s capers, Erin Brockovich‘s breezy activism and Burn After Reading‘s all out parody. And yet, all I could think during the fun, fun trailer is that Matt Damon was channeling Philip Seymour Hoffman‘s character and mannerism (admittedly a lot goofier) in Charlie Wilson’s War. Everyone get that? A new Soderbergh movie is always cause for celebration, and Andrew is probably smiling at the moment.

The Informant trailer is tucked under the seat.

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