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Worth A Look: 22.22%
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3 reviews, 27 user ratings

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In the Company of Men
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Lacerating debut by Neil LaBute."
4 stars

The first film by writer-director Neil LaBute, 'In the Company of Men' has been both exalted as a brilliant satire and scorned as a shallow burp of white male indigestion posing as satire. It's probably a little of both. But that very uncertainty is what makes it such an uneasy and unforgettable experience.

Working with a $25,000 budget (shades of Clerks -- this movie could be called Jerks) and stark, spartan sets, LaBute keeps his camera locked down as his two protagonists, Chad (Aaron Eckhart) and Howard (Matt Malloy), discuss the perfidies of women. Woman -- that most untrustworthy and enraging creature! Listening to these two, we realize that some of their specific complaints would sound inoffensive if they were women talking about these same flaws in men. But these two, and Chad in particular, go a step further. They're bewildered; they can't believe they're living in a world in which the rules keep changing and men can't even pretend to be men any more. Chad talks about women as if they were a virus spreading and infecting everything.

LaBute never stands outside the sensibilities of these men, never tells us that of course he understands that they're sexist pigs. (For this reason, the film should infuriate the literal-minded.) Chad, a rancid corporate slickster, and Howard, a schlumpy doormat, decide to get revenge for the pain that women have caused them. Their plan is to single out a woman -- preferably lonely and grateful for any male attention -- and court her simultaneously and separately, then dump her and gloat over the psychic damage they've wrought. Chad stumbles onto the perfect target: Christine (Stacy Edwards), a shy, beautiful secretary who also happens to be completely deaf.

In the Company of Men is a static and hermetic exercise; the head games in the boardroom and bedroom are intended as a microcosm for the callous corporate ethos that has coarsened us all. The form is farcical -- critics have likened it to Restoration comedy and to Les Liaisons Dangereuses in particular -- yet the tone is realistic, and the actors give performances to match. Eckhart smoothly embodies every frat boy turned office wolf; Malloy's portrait of a spiritually squashed and pathetic man becomes almost too painful to watch. And Edwards, in an enchanting and utterly convincing turn, makes us feel what this war between the sexes is costing the other side.

Is it a great movie? It falls just short, I think. LaBute, like Jules Feiffer in his nasty men-women satire Carnal Knowledge, goes too far in hollowing out the men. They are nothing but resentment and manipulation, which sometimes leaves a dramatic void. So it's hard to be involved in their game on a basic human level. We watch from a distance. A great satire, like A Clockwork Orange, would seduce us into complicity with evil. LaBute's film isn't nasty enough.

Still, this is an energizing and indelible debut. And it ends on an appropriately sour note; the silence of the final shot may echo in your mind for days afterward.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=258&reviewer=416
originally posted: 01/25/07 14:57:44
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User Comments

5/19/12 Dane Youssef LaBute has re-defined what the film itself is all about. Take a look at the genuine evil. 5 stars
9/03/06 Indrid Cold Wow! Didn't expect it to be so good. Intellectually and emotionally intense. 5 stars
3/18/05 dbx awesome. really gets a reaction out of you. 5 stars
3/03/03 Jack Sommersby Wallows in the same depravity it pretends to condemn. Eckhart is admittedly very good. 1 stars
9/01/01 Butterbean Would have been awesome if it didn't drag at the end 4 stars
6/23/01 JohnBoy And to think it actually makes Fort Wayne look like a nice place to live. lol 5 stars
2/25/01 Will made me feel kinda dirty 5 stars
7/25/00 Paulo Vieira the violence in words hurts more than the physical one. It makes you uncomfortable. 5 stars
7/11/00 Jami One of the most brilliantly disturbing and harsh films I have seen in a long time. 5 stars
4/04/00 Mike Leskow A great break-up chick flick 5 stars
6/15/99 Dylan MY girlfriend hated it, obviously. 4 stars
4/09/99 Randall I never knew us mean could be so evil 5 stars
1/31/99 Vick Di Brecci Some one-note shock films work (Kids). This one was too lazy to work. 3 stars
1/01/99 Guess? A brilliant, emotional roller coaster! 5 stars
11/27/98 Mr.Pink One of the best black comedies I've ever seen! 3 leads are brilliant! This movie kicks ASS! 5 stars
11/26/98 G if you don't like this you don't appreciate film. Eckart's great 5 stars
11/21/98 JIZMO an obvious,trite,not to say boring attempt at provocation 2 stars
11/14/98 Barrie Sent me reeling - so damn nasty and so damn brilliant. 5 stars
11/01/98 MR HOLLYWOOD !! Never laughed and frowned so much in my life !! 5 stars
10/27/98 Silent Rob LaButes man-hating debut. A snarling commentary, bound to make you think! 5 stars
10/18/98 Kwyjibo Great nasty little movie. Will make you think. And spew. 5 stars
10/12/98 joseph okay--notvery intriguing 3 stars
10/07/98 Maegs Provacative film, lets hear it for the hometown boy 4 stars
8/24/98 The Capital City Goofball LaBute has a big future. So does Eckhart. 5 stars
8/20/98 The Man With The Helmet A vicious little film. Great stuff. 5 stars
8/16/98 {{{OZ}}} Again, Johny's right. A cracker. 4 stars
8/16/98 Johny A starling and brilliant film 5 stars
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  01-Aug-1997 (R)



Directed by
  Neil LaBute

Written by
  Neil LaBute

  Aaron Eckhart
  Stacy Edwards
  Matt Malloy

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