Widely discussed as a provocative shot in the war between men and women, it is instead a sharply etched study of male rage that clings long after it's over, a tenacious barnacle attached to our peaceful selves.
You may well choke on the bile generated by "In the Company of Men." Widely discussed as a provocative shot in the war between men and women, it is instead a sharply etched study of male rage that clings long after it's over, a tenacious barnacle attached to our peaceful selves.
Chad (Aaron Ekhart, who may not be safe walking the streets after this role) and Howard (Matt Malloy) are imprisoned on assignment for their corporation in the ugly boredom of airports, hotel rooms, and corporate cubicles that are their sentence, not their choice. In undefined rage at the superiors who have reduced him to some sort of mid-level competition among beetles, Chad devises a game that will be a symbolic victory over his bosses and an actual one over women in general.
Chad enlists the weasly Howard in his vengeful game: with a salesman's fabricated charm, they will seduce a woman-- not just for sex, but for love; then they will dump her and walk away. Exhilarated by the prospect of this clever betrayal, Chad chooses Christine (Stacy Edwards), a lovely secretary whose deafness, ironically, leaves her handicapped in this war game whose weapons are the cruelties of the spoken word.
Chad attacks life with the emotional viciousness that is the easiest tool available to a man who was born hollowed out, as if by a melon spoon, and doomed to live in bitterness at the petty parameters of his life. He is mean, rotten to his empty core. Ruthlessly competitive, he bullies anyone on a lower rung of his ladder, unable to reach the ones who control him from above. Christine, at the very moment she needs reassurance, will be easy prey.
The Chads of our contemporary world have been silenced, on the surface, by the contemporary value system that demands men try to hide their disdain for women. The real resonance here for women may well be the dark suspicion that most men do not take them seriously on any level.
In eleven days and for $25,000, 34-year-old playwright Neil LaBute has made a movie that pours gasoline on the fire of women's bitterness toward a common form of male cruelty. Without a drop of physical abuse, LaBute uses words to humiliate. It's cruelty the old-fashioned way.
Mr. LaBute refuses absolutely to redeem his protagonists; getting what they deserve might send us out into the night with hope. You may think you are simply watching a vastly unpleasant movie, but just try to shake it when you leave. That may not be art, but it's power.
In this case, a woman so easily crushed is the stand-in for the corporation that has crushed mid-level men by controlling every detail of their lives. Mr. LaBute cleverly leaves the company undefined, an amorphous symbol of corporate humiliation. They may not know it, but Chad and Howard are raging at the bankruptcy of their souls.
Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 493
Studio : Sony Pictures Classics
Rating : R
Running Time: 1h33m
Copyright (c) Illusion
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