Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones and Chris Cooper Deal with Layoffs

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company menHollywood is recognizing the plight of the workers in America, with a new film starring Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones and Chris Cooper as corporate big wigs who must adjust to losses of cushy country club/board room jobs. It should come as no surprise that the film, called The Company Men, is being directed by someone who has been creating entertainment for the masses for years: none other than E.R.'s John Wells. He feels our pain.

Wells' West Wing view of the White House also brought a very American experience into our living rooms. And now he's getting a taste of the American experience himself: Having to switch careers and adapt. This is the first time Wells has ever directed a movie for the big screen, and he told reporters at the Sundance Film Festival, where his film premiered, that it wasn't easy adapting, but it was certainly worth it.


Art Mirrors Life

Wells actually began writing the script about ten years ago, during the dot-com bust and financial collapse that followed it. Just like Ben Affleck's character in the film, Wells' brother-in-law lost his high paid executive job and had to move back in with his parents. Like so many Americans, Affleck's character has to deal with the loss of a major piece of his identity when he no longer has the job that defined him.

Rosemarie DeWitt plays Affleck's wife, and Kevin Costner plays Affleck's blue-collar brother-in-law. Chris Cooper is a veteran executive who also gets fired, and Tommy Lee Jones is the corporate chief who is tormented by the way his company cavalierly kicks these workers to the curb in order to increase its share prices. Craig T. Nelson is the corporation owner who forces the layoffs. Maria Bello makes an appearance as the paramour of one of the characters and, ironically, the bearer of bad tidings, similar to George Clooney's character in Up in the Air.


Companies Cast Off Rather Than Care Take

In a Q&A session at Sundance following the film, writer/director Wells noted that there used to be a contract "between a company and an employee, where the employee worked hard, and the company took care of that employee...That has gone by the wayside. And we haven't found something to replace it. That sense of community is dissolving."

Amen brother! A lot of people relate to Wells when he says, "It's really time that we look at how this all works...It seems like the people on the top always skate away while the people in the middle get smashed."

No word yet on when we'll be able to see this film--the Sundance standard operating procedure is to screen new films, then wait for distributors to bid on the rights. Once the distributor gets those rights, they decide where and when the film will be released. We'll keep you posted.

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