×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

In the Company of Men

"In the Company of Men," Neil Labute's astonishing feature directorial debut, is a dark, probing, truly disturbing exploration of yuppie angst and male anxieties as they manifest themselves in both the work and personal arenas. Pic is insightful --- and often entertaining --- even when the technical aspects of the production don't match its fluently absorbing dialogue.

With:
Chad - Aaron Eckhart
Christine - Stacy Edwards
Howard - Matt Malloy
John - Mark Rector
Intern - Jason Dixie
Suzanne - Emily Cline

“In the Company of Men,” Neil Labute’s astonishing feature directorial debut, is a dark, probing, truly disturbing exploration of yuppie angst and male anxieties as they manifest themselves in both the work and personal arenas. Pic is insightful — and often entertaining — even when the technical aspects of the production don’t match its fluently absorbing dialogue. Theatrical prospects are excellent for a provocative film that is likely to attract upscale, educated viewers interested in non-mainstream fare.

A dissection of the white male psyche in modern America, “In the Company of Men” differs from the cycle of yuppie-angst films of the mid-1980s, most notably “Lost in America” and “Something Wild.” This black comedy is not structured as a road movie, nor does it revolve around a romantic couple in the tradition of screwball comedy. Instead, writer-director Labute centers on the complex psychologies of — and equally complex relationship between — two thirtysomething white-collar executives: handsome, arrogant Chad (Aaron Eckhart) and Howard (Matt Malloy), his friend from college and now his superior at work.

Story begins appropriately enough in the men’s room, when Chad examines Howard’s bruised ear, a product of a fight with his g.f. Touching a deep nerve, Chad ignites Howard by humiliatingly describing him as “a victim of an unprovoked assault” perpetrated by a woman. En route to a six-week business trip at a branch office in an unnamed city, the two men share their frustrations in life — the tough corporate culture, with expectations for promotions that have not materialized, and the equally tough mating game, which has left both men rejected by women.

As a therapeutic measure, Chad proposes a plan to restore their bruised, insecure egos. They should find an appealing woman, one who’s susceptible enough to be lured and dated by both of them during their stay. The scheme is to dash this woman’s hopes to such an extent that she would lose control and, as Chad says, “suddenly call her mom and start wearing makeup again.” Then, when “business” is over, they’ll go back to civilization “like nothing happened,” able to laugh about their adventure for years to come.

Chad soon spots Christine (Stacy Edwards), a beautiful typist who turns out to be hearing-impaired. Having been out of the dating game for years, Christine is the “ideal” prey, a woman who’s vulnerable to a fault. Christine goes on separate dates with both men, though it’s clear that she’s attracted to Chad. Soon both men begin to show some feelings and even declare love for her.

Turning point occurs when Howard runs into Chad and Christine at a restaurant on the same day she had turned down his offer to have lunch together. What ensues is a suspenseful, mean-spirited cat-and-mouse game of one-upmanship that eventually escalates into full-scale psychological warfare. It’s a tribute to Labute’s taut control over the material that it’s not until the very end that the true motivations and emotions of each man are revealed.

Pics greatest achievement is its sharply poignant dialogue which, despite the horrible consequences of the contest it describes, is also darkly amusing. Labute keeps the cynical, often misogynistic banter coming and the scenes punchy, making for a lively, edgy movie in which speech is action. At times, the script almost turns too schematic and misanthropic for its own good, as in “Swimming With Sharks,” with which it shares a superficial resemblance, specifically in its depiction of office politics and greed.

Nonetheless, with the exception of a few scenes — such as the one in which Chad asks a black intern (Jason Dixie) to take off his underwear and show that he literally has the balls for the job — the film is always credible and never frivolous. What begins as an adult version of a frat-boy prank turns into a lethal power game with unexpected twists and turns.

Visual style of what appears to be an extremely low-budget effort is rather simple: Labute favors frontal, medium-range shots, and his camera doesn’t move much. But it doesn’t matter, for the film is not only deftly written, it’s also superbly acted by a trio of talented thesps.

In a career-making performance, Eckhart, who physically is a cross between William Hurt and Michael York, aptly embodies a 1990s yuppie: nastily cocky and ruthlessly ambitious. He is ably supported by Malloy as the less attractive and more sensitive executive, and Edwards, as a woman who’s just a pawn in the duel for corporate ascension.

Labute registers strongly as a filmmaker to watch, one who writes witty dialogue that doesn’t sound forced or artificial.

In the Company of Men

Production: A Stephen Pevner/Atlantis Entertainment production, in association with Fair and Square Prods. Produced by Mark Archer, Stephen Pevner. Executive producers, Toby Gaff, Mark Hart, Matt Malloy. Directed, written by Neil Labute.

Crew: Camera (color), Tony Hettinger; editor, Joel Plotch; music, Ken Williams, Karel Roessingn; production design, Julia Henkel; sound (Dolby), Tony and George Moskal; associate producer, Joyce Pierpoline; line producer, Lisa Bartels; assistant director, Denise Snider. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (competing), Jan. 19, 1997. Running time: 95 MIN

With: Chad - Aaron Eckhart
Christine - Stacy Edwards
Howard - Matt Malloy
John - Mark Rector
Intern - Jason Dixie
Suzanne - Emily Cline

More Film

  • Aisling Franciosi

    European Film Promotion Unveils 2019 Shooting Stars

    Aisling Franciosi (“The Nightingale”), Ardalan Esmaili (“The Charmer”) and Elliott Crosset Hove (“Winter Brothers”) are among the 10 actors and actresses who have been named as the European Film Promotion’s Shooting Stars. Previous Shooting Stars include Alicia Vikander, Matthias Schoenaerts, Pilou Asbæk and Baltasar Kormákur. The new crop of up-and-coming talent for the 22nd edition of [...]

  • Jodie Foster'Money Monster' photocall, Palais, 69th

    Film News Roundup: Jodie Foster to Direct, Star in Remake of Icelandic Thriller

    In today’s film news roundup, Jodie Foster is remaking Iceland’s “Woman at War,” the Art Directors Guild honors production designers Anthony Masters and Ben Carre, “47 Meters Down: Uncaged” gets cast and Melissa Takal directs “New Year New You” for Hulu. PROJECT ANNOUNCEMENT More Reviews Concert Review: Maxwell Brings Down the House at Rapturous Hometown [...]

  • Jake Gyllenhaal

    Jake Gyllenhaal to Star in Remake of Denmark's Oscar Entry 'The Guilty' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bold Films, and Jake Gyllenhaal and Riva Marker’s Nine Stories banner have acquired the rights to remake the Danish thriller “The Guilty,” with Gyllenhaal attached to star. The pic won the world cinema audience award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and was also named one of the top five foreign language films of 2018 by [...]

  • Toxic Avenger

    'Toxic Avenger' Movie in the Works at Legendary

    Legendary Entertainment is developing “The Toxic Avenger” as a movie after acquiring the feature film rights. Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz of Troma Entertainment will serve as producers. Alex Garcia and Jay Ashenfelter will oversee for Legendary. More Reviews Concert Review: Maxwell Brings Down the House at Rapturous Hometown Show Film Review: 'Jirga' Kaufman and [...]

  • Constance Wu

    'Crazy Rich Asians' Star Constance Wu in Negotiations for Romantic Comedy

    “Crazy Rich Asians” star Constance Wu is in talks to join Sony’s Screen Gems’ untitled romantic comedy, with Elizabeth Banks and Max Handelman producing. “GLOW” actress Kimmy Gatewood is making her feature directorial debut on the project. She will be directing from a Savion Einstein script about a woman who becomes pregnant with two babies [...]

  • Maggie Gyllenhaal AoA

    Maggie Gyllenhaal on Why a Woman Director Doesn't Automatically Make a Story More Feminine

    Having a female director doesn’t automatically make a story more feminine, says “The Kindergarten Teacher” star Maggie Gyllenhaal, but when it comes to her film with director Sara Colangelo, she says the female narrative is fully encapsulated. “Just because something is written or directed by a woman doesn’t necessarily make it a feminine articulation,” she says [...]

  • Kevin Hart Hurricane Harvey

    Academy Looks Warily at Oscar Host Options as Board Meeting Looms

    Kevin Hart’s abrupt departure as Oscars host has left the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences scrambling to find someone to take the gig. As of now, the situation remains fluid as the group’s leadership explores options, including going host-less, individuals familiar with the situation told Variety. The Academy was blindsided by Hart’s announced departure Thursday [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content