Movies: Ben Affleck in 'The Company Men'

With harrowing realism, The Company Men captures the raw, personal impact of the economic meltdown. ER creator John Wells knows the value of a little soap opera, so he gives us three executives whose layoffs are like grenades exploding under their comfy middle-class lives. Ben Affleck is the most affecting as the self-assured guy with a family, a mortgage, and a Porsche, soon working construction for the brother-in-law who always mocked his elitism. Chris Cooper is advised by a pessimistic job counselor to leave his proud Vietnam service off his résumé because it dates him. Even the least convincing character hits a nerve. Tommy Lee Jones plays a company honcho who questions the ethics behind the layoffs—as if that ever happens. More credibly, he’s forced out for his un-greedy ideals. Wells reaches for an upbeat ending, but who is he kidding? We’re in an economic mess anyway, though, so have yourself a recessionary Christmas, with three touching performances in one emotionally honest film.

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