In the Company of Men (1997)
Corporate America is full of jerks corrupted by power who feel that they have every right to use this power to their own advantage and treat others like garbage. In the Company of Men tells the story of a few such gentlemen, and does so in what is supposed to be a realistic way, but I have a hard time believing that the characters here are acting realistically.
A pair of men go on a six-week business stint out of town, working on an anonymous project for an anonymous large company. Chad (Aaron Eckhart) encourages Howard (Matt Malloy) to play a "game" with him while they are on this business trip. He proposes that they find a vulnerable girl and each begin dating her and treating her kindly, then at the end of the six weeks, pull the rug out from underneath her and bask in her agony. The purpose here being that in the future, when either of the two of them feels mistreated by a woman, they can look back on this and tell themselves at least it's not as bad as that. Howard isn't overly enthusiastic about the idea, but goes along with anyway.
The pawn ends up being a secretary named Christine (Stacy Edwards), who also happens to be deaf. Chad takes her out first, then Howard does the same. Things start to get complicated when Christine starts to develop feelings for Chad, but Howard starts to develop true feelings for Christine, and isn't sure he wants to be involved in this game anymore. Meanwhile, everything is going according to plan for Chad, and he is loving it.
I think one of the points that this movie is trying to convey is that the most ruthless, heartless, sadistic individuals are able to succeed in business because they don't care who they step over while they're on their way up. Chad certainly fits that bill; he is absolutely despicable, almost to the point where he is a caricature, and it ultimately makes his character difficult to believe. There is virtually no way to sympathize with his character and that's because he's one-dimensional: he's a jerk and we should loathe him, and we do.
The whole game just doesn't seem like it would ever happen. Why would a man like Howard go along with it? He seems much too smart and compassionate to agree to this heartless plan. When watching the film, though, I put aside my disbelief of the premise and found it to be pretty good. I liked the way director Neil LaBute allowed for long takes and really let the actors do their thing, and they did a very good job, especially Matt Malloy. However, it's difficult to make a film realistic when you can't believe the situation.
March 25, 2005