At the Movies: The Company Men, Biutiful

You’ve been snowed in for four days. Cabin fever is high. You’ve gotta get outta the house. But it’s too cold to do anything outside. The Movies! Let’s All Go to The Movies! What’s new?!

Sorry. Can’t really advise you. There’s something called “The Roommate,” which sounds like it’s a remake of a thriller from a few decades back, but they didn’t screen it so I didn’t see it so I can’t rate it. I was going to go see “Sanctum,” but The Great Blizzard of 2011 killed that screening.

Normally, at this point we’d have to play Not New Movie Showcase, but a couple of 2010 award wannabes have finally made their way to St. Louis, so I can write about them. However, they are part of the dreaded Important By Being Depressing genre, so if you’re suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, stay away.

The Company Men

Here’s the all-star movie which asks: If successful, wealthy management types get laid off, should we care? The answer is yes, but don’t worry, they’ll probably bounce back.

James Salinger (Craig T. Nelson) runs the GTX Corporation, which he built from the ground up with Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones), the No. 2 man at the company. The Great Recession has hit hard at GTX, and while Gene will do anything to protect his employees, James is only interested in protecting his stockholders.

Among the first wave of layoffs is Gene’s golden boy, Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck). Bobby is stunned, but confident he will bounce back quickly. When he doesn’t bounce — his home, sports car, private club membership and sense of self-worth are all in peril.

But stubbornness and pride won’t feed the kids, and eventually Bobby is forced to go to work for his brother-in-law (Kevin Costner) in construction while his family moves in with his parents.

Meanwhile back at  GTX, more heads are on the chopping block, including longtime employee Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper). Phil is in an even worse position to start over than Bobby.

Despite a gifted cast, “Company Men” feels like a television melodrama. Bobby is beaten, beaten, beaten… he learns his lesson about pride and the value of hard work… then, having everything stripped away but his self-worth and family, he gets a new job! Hurray! Sure, it pays less than the old job, but Bobby doesn’t need all that money anymore. He’s a better man. Thank you Great Recession.

Did it work for me? If I weren’t living it I might have enjoyed it more. But probably not. It’s well made but as with all movies of The Depressing Season — who would want to sit through something like this?

Biutiful

And the winner of the 2010 “Precious (Based on the novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire) Award for Bleakest Movie of the Year” is “Biutiful,” a Spanish film about a well-meaning criminal who’s dying of cancer.

Javier Bardem earned — and rightly so — an Academy Award nomination for his performance as Uxbal. Uxbal is trying to raise his two young children in the dirty, crowded streets of Barcelona. He earns a living serving as a middleman to unsavory characters who are exploiting illegal immigrant labor.

When his doctor informs him of his incurable cancer, Uxbal tries to get his affairs in order. His unreliable, bi-polar wife Marambra (Maricel Álvarez) is not going to be any help.

Oh, and then things get bad.

“Biutiful” is long, plodding and bleak. Boy, is this movie bleak. You will wish you were still snowed in after spending two-and-a-half hours with Uxbal. Bardem gives a great, convincing performance if you can stand to sit through it.

Did it work for me? Same disclaimer as always. Well done, but I only sat through it because it’s the job. Why you would sit through it, I do not know.

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One response to “At the Movies: The Company Men, Biutiful

  1. I’m sorry you are offended by high culture.
    Maybe if it had more phasing lasing tasing guns and exploding cars you would have enjoyed “Biutiful” more.

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