The Birthday Series – In The Company of Men (1997)

Droids Birthday Series 1997 Here’s how it’s going down. I’m counting down to my birthday by reviewing a film that was released on or around August 2nd for every year of my life. Take a looksee at 1997.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/8/87/In_the_Company_of_Men.jpgOh boy! When constructing this list of films to review, my life flashed before my eyes. I scrolled down the list of 1997 releases and much to my chagrin, a turd did greet me. On August 1st, ‘Spawn’ was released. I wasn’t a happy chappy. But with a little digging, the wonders of the internet provided me with a saviour! That very same day a small independent film crept into a couple of theatres. That film was Neil LaButes wickedly narcissistic debut, the pitch black comedy ‘In The Company of Men’.

In The Company of Men 1 Chad (Aaron Eckhart) and Howard (Matt Molloy) have been friends since college. They’ve worked for the same company for years, and Howard is now the new project manager. Their company has assigned them to an unnamed town for six weeks to complete the latest project. Both Chad and Howard have had recent troubles with women. Both have been dumped. They’re both disillusioned and looking to assert their authority. Become Men again. Chad comes up with a scheme. Something they can look back on and laugh about when they’re old and grey. What if they were to select a woman that is lonely and vulnerable, and simultaneously romance her, making her fall in love?

“And then one day, out goes the rug, and us pulling it hard. And Jill? She just comes tumbling after.”

In The Company of Men 2 This is a brutal film. Chad is one of those characters that stay in the memory long after you’ve watched the film. He’s a grotesquely misogynistic, loathsome narcissist. He’s a fake, bullying, weasely, self-involved, shallow person, but on the surface he projects a veneer of cocky, self-assured sincerity. He’s your best friend, to your face. But as soon as you’re back is turned he’s talking you down to the other guys, bigging himself up. The most unnerving thing is that he is so recognisable. I’ve known variations on this person in real life. To be quite honest, I’ve probably been something approaching this character at varying stages of my life. That is this films strength.

Aaron Eckhart is absolutely flawless in this film. He embodies Chad, and creates one of cinemas most memorable monsters. With true evil, which only becomes fully realised in the devastating final scenes, he tears apart lives. It’s a truly brilliant performance, and one that should have been widely recognised.

In The Company of Men 3 Howard is a weakling. He’s unsure about himself. He’s a follower. A sheep. He is the type of person that is drawn to a seemingly strong personality like Chad. Worshipping him. Allowing himself to be manipulated because it means inclusion and belonging. He’s the type of person you nearly always see standing just behind and to the left of a person like Chad. The fact that he’s just as big a monster, in his own way, as Chad is a credit to Molloys performance. It’s a terrific portrayal of a pathetic, spineless person. During the scene where he tries to weasel his way into the womans affections by telling her everything, laying the entire blame on Chad, his desperation and weakness is enraging.

In The Company of Men 5 The woman in question is Christine (Stacy Edwards). She’s attractive and shy. Simply a nice person. She’s a temporary secretary at the company Chad and Howard work for. She’s also deaf. This is not a deterrent for Chad. It’s quite the opposite. It’s perfect. It only makes her more vulnerable in his eyes. The relationships she has with both Chad and Howard are perfectly understandable. Each one starts at the same time, and progress naturally. Chad is the good looking, smooth operator. He makes the right moves, complementing her, sending her flowers, charming her mum. But Howard also plays it right. He’s respectful, courteous and compassionate. But he’s just such a non-entity that of course her affections gradually, naturally shift towards Chad. Her break up scene is heartbreakingly realistic. She’s a nice person and flattered with this new found attention. Something she’s not used to, and she now must make a choice. She doesn’t want to hurt anyone, and blames herself for leading Howard on. Edwards is terrific, but in particular this scene, and it makes everything that follows even more horrible.

In The Company of Men 4 This is Neil LaButes first film. What an amazing début. He adapted his play, but you’d never know it. He directs it with absolute control. It’s a spare film. Every scene is a piece of the whole, building towards the finale. He also brilliantly layers in doubt about Chad. As the relationship develops, we start to doubt Chads intentions. He seems to really like Christine. It’s perfectly handled. Going back to something I mentioned earlier, this film, these characters, are recognisable. Certainly not quite this heightened, but there are scenes in this film that perfectly capture the “locker room” mentality that you experience when a group of guys get together. It’s the whole macho culture, and the scene where Chad is looking through a company brochure and commenting on all the colleagues he knows (“He’s a new breed of fuck. Like a special strain of fucker. Oh I hate that little pussy cocksucker.”), is so grotesquely true to life that I shuddered and remembered similar experiences.

In The Company of Men 6 The music in ‘In The Company of Men’ is particularly effective. It’s only used during the opening titles, and during the title cards that count down the weeks. The music is this almost objectionable angry jazz that seems to assault you with it’s ferocity. It captures that underlying hostility of the characters and even feels like some sort of cathartic release for LaBute.

I could probably talk for a long time about this film, but I won’t bore you with that. It’s truly a film that encourages discussion and one that, although only watching it for the second time since it’s release, has stayed with me and has even more depth and meaning than the first time I watched it nearly 13 years ago. I’ve known and experienced people like this.

If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend you do so.

4-changs

Thank you all for attending 1997’s birthday. This has been a very, very good one.

 

For Droids a jolly good fellow!

2009 – The Collector

2008 – The Midnight Meat Train

2007 – Hot Rod

2006 – Bon Cop Bad Cop

2005 – The Dukes of Hazzard

2004 – The Manchurian Candidate

2003 – Gigli

2002 – Signs

2001 – Rush Hour 2

2000 – Hollow Man

1999 – The Iron Giant

1998 – BASEketball

Droid

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About Judge Droid

In between refining my procrastination skills I talk a lot of shit about movies and such.

22 responses to “The Birthday Series – In The Company of Men (1997)”

  1. koutchboom says :

    I like this movie, loved the FUCKED ending. But ultimately Spawn is SO much better.

  2. koutchboom says :

    Yeah you are right this is easily Aaron Eckhart’s only worthwhile role.

    • Droid says :

      I never said that. It’s his best role, but not his “only worthwhile role”. He was in The Core. Thats at least two.

      • koutchboom says :

        Naw you said you was absolutely flawless in this film, which is the best thing ever said about him. Usually it’s just Aaron Eckhart is in this movie, so that makes it his only worthwhile role. Because everything else he’s done he could’ve been replaced or have his character taken out of the movie entirely and it wouldn’t have added or subtracted to the film outside of it’s running time.

      • Droid says :

        Mate, wipe your chin because you’re talking shit.

      • koutchboom says :

        “wipe your chin”?

        Must be an Aussie thing. I’m right though Eckhart is a fucking worthless actor, he should’ve dropped dead after this movie instead of doing a pussier version of the same character in Thank You For Smoking and whatever else Thomas Jane didn’t sign on to do.

        I wonder if that movie with both him and Jane in it is any good, I bet it’s the second best thing he’s ever done.

      • Droid says :

        *sigh*

        Yes, Koutch. He’s “worthless”. Fuck me you do say some stupid things.

  3. koutchboom says :

    You know this movie is another reason why Up In the Air is such a shitty movie. Cloontang reminds me so much of Thomas Janes doppelgänger from this movie that it was hard to take Cloons seriously. It was like an older version of Chad who had his balls cut off. Because Cloons does have the narsistic out for himself attitude, but then he’s just a giant pussy. Also the look and feel of Up In the Air reminds me of this, the whole drab basic look and culture of an office. Plus Up In the Air goes nowhere and says nothing and this movie actually has a point and purpose. Also this movie admits and aknowledges and it’s mean as hell while Up In the Air tries to side step around all that with bullshit sentiment.

    • Droid says :

      If there is one thing this movie isn’t, it’s sentimental.

      Up In The Air is similarly themed, definitely. But Clooneys character is like a combination of Chad and Howard. Chad on the outside and Howard on the inside. A pussy version of Chad though.

      In UITA Clooneys never shown in a bad light. We’re supposed to pity his choices. “Aw, he must be so lonely. Whens he going to wise up and conform to the norm?” Even when he’s firing people he’s shown as this detached but sympathetic guy.

      There’s nothing sympathetic about Chad or Howard.

      • koutchboom says :

        Yeah that’s what I’m saying, it’s just a pussy version of this movie and it’s characters. I didn’t say Company of men is sentimental I said UITA was.

  4. just pillow talk says :

    I think I’ll be adding this to the queue.

  5. Stuntcock Mike says :

    Yeah, I’m a fucking asshole, I’ll admit. I laughed hard when Eckhart is standing in the doorway to her office, screaming at her to see if she’s really deaf.

  6. redfishybluefishy says :

    There is no doubt that this movie sticks with you. I think it’s hard to forget. An excellent, but horrifying look into the psyche of a complete asshat. It nearly convinced me to become a lesbian, but I have faith that not all men are like that (plus, I kinda prefer the dangly bits). It is well worth watching. And, yes, Aaron Eckhart is excellent. He brilliant dances between charming and disgusting. There are some painfully funny parts that you feel all dirty about laughing at.

    • Droid says :

      “dangly bits”? Please. We’re sophisticated folk around these parts. It’s “twig and berries”, or at a pinch “meat and potatoes”.

      Dangly bits indeed.

  7. Tom_Bando says :

    I liked Eckhart in Thank You for Not Smoking, the Core and etc. He’s perfectly fine. Does the smarmy thing quite well.

    Good couple of Clooney roles: Good Night and Good Luck, and Michael Clayton. That last one esp. is worthwhile.

  8. ThereWolf says :

    Nice review.

    Never heard of this but I have dutifully made a note of the title for future reference.

    Cheers.

  9. koutchboom says :

    Here Droid this’ll keep you till go time:

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119361/board/flat/18281907?p=1

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