Sunday, February 26, 2012

Halftime in America

Maybe that's the problem. I saw the Clint Eastwood Chrysler ad before I saw The Company Men. Also, knowing that someone who worked on The West Wing wrote and directed this movie kind of spoils it even more after the fact, but that's just me. I guess ultimately I was just expecting a different movie. I've clearly been spoiled on a diet of Coen brothers movies and I expect a Machiavellian fiend behind the plot, pulling the strings and putting people through hell. There is a lot of that here to be sure, just not enough of it. I mention the Coen brothers because longtime Coen cameraman Roger Deakins was the DP on this sweet baby. This is his third film with Tommy Lee Jones; doesn't he get tired of that withered old face?
Anyway, back to the plot. There's three or four central characters here. The one we relate most with, sort of, is Ben Affleck, the youngest of the bunch, even though he's an elder statesman in his own right. Juggling family and career, he plays the part of hotshot businessman by wearing nice suits and driving a silver sports car. He gets fired soon after the movie starts, but has enough of a nest egg to take some time off, feeding on delicious yolk while looking for a new job. Tommy Lee Jones plays Affleck's boss who's much older and much richer, nicer house, and clearly living like a European with a wife and company mistress to boot. Chris Cooper is somewhere in the middle: not as old as Tommy Lee, but perhaps richer than Ben Affleck. If this were a Lebowski triangle, he's clearly the Donny.
There's okay acting here and some above-average writing, but far too many pronouncements about what's wrong with America. Perhaps I've seen too many movies on the subject recently (Inside Job; Casino Jack; The United States of Money... also about Casino Jack, but a documentary; even Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, to an extent), but we should all know by now what's wrong with America. It all started in 1981 with a guy named Ronald Reagan, who cut taxes for the rich and started going after unions. It somehow seemed like an okay thing to do: how much damage could it cause? Kinda like how it seemed okay to some if George W. Bush got elected in 2000 instead of Al Gore: how much damage could THAT cause? But now, here we are in 2010, and we're pretty much all going to Kevin Costner for that job rebuilding the house. Wonder how his oil centrifuge is working in the Gulf of Mexico... it's out there, right? Lord knows there's a lot of sea water yet to be spun.
And then, of course, there's the Craig T. Nelson character. He's the "Have" character, whereas everyone else is the "Soon to Haves." Ah, Mitch Daniels. What a gift. The Republicans are now starting to sound like Stephen Colbert! Go figure. If I were Stephen, I'd try to get some credit for that whole 'Soon to Have' phraseology. The Craig T. Nelson CEO did what he had to do to end the movie with the biggest number: 600 million. And yet, still halfway to the billionaires suite. So much for ship building! Software's where the real big bucks are. Software and lawyers, of course. But in this era of the threat of filibusters, where no one's allowed to incite class warfare, we can't begrudge the Craig T. Nelsons of the world their success. We'll be joining them soon, after all! Maybe not in the afterlife, but here on earth. Of course, what boring stories we'd have to tell them. Going to the laundromat, the middle class grocery stores, the GAS STATION, for God's sake. Perhaps we should take the advice of Amory Lovins, and that is to change the incentive structure of things. In engineering, early in the 20th century, things weren't designed to be energy-efficient, as it was assumed that energy was more than plentiful. If manufacturing can be incentivized to reward environmental stewardship, energy efficiency, and the stimulation of local economies... I know, I know. SOCIALIST!!!!!!!!! REDISTRIBUTIONIST!!!! SODOMITE!!! Ah, God bless America, and its increasingly bland entertainments.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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