Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday Movies ~ Polar opposite tales: Bloodworth and The Company Men

Last weekend, without realising it at the time, the two movies I chose to rent had characters, locations and storylines which were exact polar opposites: Bloodworth and The Company Men. Both are fairly recent releases, neither had reached our local cinema. I chose them purely because of the actors involved: Kris Kristofferson (long time favourite singer, writer, actor), in Bloodworth; Tommy Lee Jones (long time favourite actor) in The Company Men.

The two storylines depict aspects of life in today's USA, throwing into strong relief stark variations existing here, in different areas, different layers of poverty and wealth, and in different ways of dealing with the circumstances into which a person can find themself due to the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune".

For astrologically interested passing readers, I've already posted notes on natal charts of Kris Kristofferson HERE, and Tommy Lee Jones (HERE). Another excellent actor from Company Men, Chris Cooper's natal chart has been investigated by me HERE.

In Bloodworth we peer into life in deepest Tennessee, even though the movie was shot in North Carolina. The film is an adaptation of a novel, Provinces of Night, by southern gothic author William Gay. Kristofferson plays the long absent patriarch of the family Bloodworth, who tries to return to the rancid bosom of his family after suffering a stroke. He left home, wife and three sons 40 years earlier for a mysterious reason only hinted at in flashback. In his long absence the family hasn't prospered. Wife has gone dotty, one son isn't far behind her, another son has become a sleazy country music producer in Nashville (Val Kilmer gamely hamming it up), the third son, as we meet him, is seeking a wife who has absconded, he's a less than attentive fatherly presence to his young son Fleming, played by Reece Thompson.

When Grandpa arrives, Fleming, high school drop out, but aspiring writer, is the only family member to offer assistance and friendship to the old guy, played perhaps rather too sympathetically by Kristofferson.

The cinematography is one of the best things - lovely atmospheric scenes and colours. I suspect the book might fill in many of the blanks left in the movie, which starts at an appropriately southern languid pace, but steps up to a sweaty canter at the end, making what was originally a believable tale seem overly contrived.

Scenes from Bloodworth remained in memory though - so the film makers must have done something right.

The Company Men - set in a polar opposite location to rural Tennessee: urban Boston. Featuring polar opposite personalities from those seen in Bloodworth: urban corporate men living what used to be called The American Dream - in huge houses filled with every luxury imaginable, Porche cars, spoiled wives and offspring, living lives the like of which Bloodworths had not ever even dreamed about. The script is by John Wells, TV writer, director, producer, known best for ER and West Wing.

Tommy Lee Jones plays a rather dour (of course) Gene McClary co-founder of a now major and up to now successful corporation, originally shipbuilders but currently with fingers in all manner of pies. 21st century disease of "downsizing" and redundancies hovers over the corporation as the movie begins, and spreads its infection rapidly. One of the first of the upper echelons of employees to go is Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck), VP of sales department, mid-thirties husband and father living high off the hog; doesn't deal at all well with changed circumstances. His wife, a nurse, keeps the family ship from sinking altogether. Phil Woodward (the excellent Chris Cooper), a guy who has been with the company from its earliest days, rising from shop floor level to middle management, now nearing 60 and now jobless.

Last to go, outspoken co-founder Gene McClary gets the chop by his cold-hearted partner, for daring to criticise continued desecration of their company in order to placate a deity of shareholders. I couldn't help relating what went on in these scenes to ancient sacrificial offerings to the gods of old.

The movie describes how each man deals with his changed circumstances.
It's a deadly serious movie - no laughs at all. Performances by the three leads are strong and believable as is Kevin Costner's out of norm character turn as Affleck's grumpy but well-meaning brother-in-law who runs his own small construction firm, also not in the best of straits, but keeping going under difficult circumstances in order to keep his guys in employment. A sharp reminder that small businesses too feel the pinch, but small businessmen are human, with a heart, wereas corporations are money-making machines, without a heart.

In both Bloodworth and Company Men there's a light at the end of a dark tunnel, but only in the closing scenes.

An oddity I realised while drafting this post: In Bloodworth character actor Barry Corbin played a minor but beautifully drawn part as owner of a run-down rural bar; in Company Men I saw Tommy Lee Jones and Chris Cooper. All three actors all had main roles in one of my all-time favourite TV mini-series, Lonesome Dove. Tommy was Captain Woodrow Call, Chris Cooper was July Johnson (and will always be remembered so by me), and Barry Corbin was Roscoe Brown. Three wonderful actors, none of whom (even Tommy L.J.) has ever received fully the acclaim they deserve.


anyjazz said...

A good movie night. Lots of thought went into both movies and the results show it. Isn’t it odd that when these thought provoking stories become movies, we often see old familiar faces in them? Maybe it just seems that way. It’s almost as if some actors are afraid to be seen in movies that contain any social comment while others are eager to advance a cause. Or maybe it’s just because they are younger and trying to appeal to a different segment.

Twilight said...

anyjazz ~~~ Interesting thoughts, anyjazz!

The well-known leading men types (Pitt, Clooney, Wilson and a gaggle of newer guys) are already too type-cast to be able to play these kinds of roles, even if they wanted to (which I bet they don't, and I bet most of 'em don't have the subtle skills needed anyway.)