Posted on 03 January 2009.
Are all men bastards…or just misunderstood? That was the tagline for Neil LaBute’s 1997 film, In The Company of Men, a classic in my eyes that far too few have come to appreciate to this very day. The reasons are likely many. It was an ultra low budget film, shot for a reported $25,000, with no moving camera shots in the entire film to my recollection. They are all still shots with the only motion coming when LaBute affixes the camera to a trolley-ride at a generic amusement park of sorts. It ended up doing just under $3 million domestic box-office, a modest hit for a then still small independent film scene.
IMDB breaks down the plot as follows: Two business executives–one an avowed misogynist, the other recently emotionally wounded by his love interest–set out to exact revenge on the female gender by seeking out the most innocent, uncorrupted girl they can find and ruining her life. So essentially, two guys who work together pick on a co-worker, dating her at the same time, only to supposedly screw her over. Not one to watch with women. However, not all goes nearly as smoothly as planned. If it did, why would I recommend it?
Aaron Eckhart and Matt Malloy In The Company of Men.
This is kind of a movie for the hard-ass. Chad sets the whole scheme up, they want to break one girl to get back at women for causing men so much heart break. I think Kanye West can relate. But it’s the weaker Howard who falls for the mute Christine, while Christine falls for Chad, thus making for an awkward love triangle before things get out of hand. A woman would feel sorry for Christine, and it’s hard not to, she really is an innocent for the most part, especially considering that she is being set up the whole time, not to mention that she is deaf. Howard finds this endearing and actually learns some signing to communicate with her. Chad essentially just mocks her knowing that she can’t hear him.
But Chad is the handsome one, so Christine sees him as the prize between the two men, even though she is pleased with Howard’s kind persona. Once her plight is revealed, her devastation ensues, and even Chad finds it a bit unsatisfactory, questioning her with “It only hurts that much?” So she holds it together as long as she can and she sobs in his absence. That’ll sting. Eventually, after so bitterly losing out on Christine’s heart to Chad, a devastated Howard confronts him and Chad makes the big reveal. When asked why he did it all, the married Chad closes the saga by simply saying “Because I could.” Now that’s cold, colder than Coors Light. But still, pure genius.
Stacy Edwards enjoys the company of the wrong men.
In the Company of Men was Aaron Eckhart’s first starring role as an actor. His charismatic and suave player, Chad, was the type of guy that both men and women were attracted to. He perfectly played two-faced long before he became Two-Face in The Dark Knight. It launched his career, allowing him to eventually land a lead part opposite Julia Roberts in Steven Soderberg’s Erin Brockovich in 2000. Eckhart helped get Julia her Oscar!
Neil LaBute wrote and directed it and has had a pretty good run of his own as a serious counterpart to Kevin Smith. He recently directed Samuel L. in Lakeview Terrace, his eighth effort behind the camera and yeah, he was a virgin before Company of Men.
Matt Malloy’s Howard, is the perfect foil as well. When he and Chad converse in a bathroom discussing details of their respective dates with Christine, their interaction is priceless. His “Niiiice” response to Chad’s tale of he and Christine’s peck on the cheek goodbye kiss is just perfect. I quoted that for years and might need to bring it back. Malloy is a character actor that gets steady work. He actually ended up with 5 film credits in 2008 alone and totals almost 100 acting credits in full as of this writing. That’s some serious stuff.
Where real men take care of their business.
Why do I enjoy this film so much? Maybe it is my dark side. I adapted the deaf voice that Christine has as one of my voices for an acting audition to a comedy troupe. (I didn’t book the gig so I can talk about it now, but it wowed a few on-lookers, as did my Eddie Vedder as Eminem impression, but that’s another story for another time. Maybe mocking the deaf wasn’t funny to those hiring for the troupe, but I think they missed out. Why be so PC in this Mac world?) Yeah, it is a guy movie and perhaps a perfect one for anyone who has ever been hurt by a woman at some point in their life. This was a shoestring budget film that made you feel, like Kevin Smith’s 1994 Clerks did, that filmmaking was an achievable medium for everyman. Mind you, this was long before the iMovie’s and You Tube’s of the world really did virtually put filmmaking and distributing at your fingertips.
In the end, if you are a guy, this is a film you must see. Just don’t watch it with your female mate. Heed this call! Nothing good can come out of that, unless you want to end up like the characters in the movie, sans a relationship. But you can have a great time catching this and if you watch it with a few friends, commence the quoting. It came out a year after the imminently quotable movie Swingers and it holds it’s own in a completely different way. I can’t recommend it enough. A 4 nest film-u-missed.
Buy this Film U Missed here.