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.
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Two junior executives on a six week business trip, both of whom have been recently hurt by women, devise a horrible plan to get even with women for their past hurts: They intend to find, romance, and then dump a vulnerable woman. They choose Cristine, and for a while all goes according to plan. However, it soon becomes clear that things are not as simple as they think. Written by
A gripping, intense character-driven study of human nature in the corporate world
Neil Labute's In the Company of Men is an amazing motion picture, one of the best films of 1997 and a shocking indictment of the ego-driven corporate world in which we live. On the surface, the film, expertly written by Neil Labute in his first feature effort, seems to be a cruel tale of misogyny. Lurking beneath the surface, however, is the film's true message, one which depicts the business world as a battle of survival of the fittest, a harsh world where men sacrifice their integrity and compassion in favor of oneupsmanship and greed.
Fed up with their failures with members of the opposite sex, two co-workers, Chad (Aaron Eckhart) and Howard (Matt Malloy) decide to play a cruel prank on an unsuspecting female victim. They will both date her, and then after a six-week period, they will dump her, a plan they've devised after years of being tormented and unlucky with women. They eventually choose their prey, a deaf typist named Christine (Stacy Edwards) and begin their quest, asking her for dates, sending her flowers, and sharing intimate moments. All this seems like a pleasant surprise to Christine after years of no dating--but, of course, she doesn't know the plan the men have hatched.
I don't want to reveal too much more about the plot than this. I will say that the film has two climactic scenes, one expected and the other inevitable in retrospect. The first climax makes the movie a success, the second makes the film great--only then do we see Labute's true intent.
Labute's cast of no-names is uniformly excellent. Eckhart, who has since become a Labute staple, delivers a fascinating performance as a truly despicable character, the smooth and fast-talking Chad. Matt Malloy is excellent as Howard, the "weaker" of the two men, and Edwards is great as the hapless deaf typist, presenting her character as likable, intelligent, and sensitive, not just a stereotypical handicapped woman. But the real star of the film is Labute's script. Judging by this, and his three more recent films (Your Friends and Neighbors, Nurse Betty, and Possession--all quality films), Labute is a writer-director to monitor for years to come.
A noteworthy comment about In the Company of Men is that it has been marketed as a comedy. Those of you expecting slapstick humor and romantic charms might be better served seeing another movie. In the Company of Men is NOT comedy. There are elements of black humor, especially one particularly depraved scene involving one of the men and an office intern. However, In the Company of Men is more tragic than comic, a look into the tarnished male psyche brought on by years of corporate stress and paranoia. I couldn't help but think of David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross, another film about corporate greed in today's world when I was watching this one. However, while Glengarry plays as more of a character-driven mystery and morality play, In the Company of Men is much more insidious, and it offers no solutions in the end. In fact, the final shot of the film is, in my mind, one of the most memorable in modern cinema. Just who exactly has the upper hand?....
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