In the Company of Men

Canada - 1997

Movie Review By Andrea Chase

Neil LaBute doesn't think much of human nature. For him, the species breaks down into predator and prey, which explains why his film "In the Company of Men" doesn't punish the wicked. In fact, the wicked are rewarded, because, in life, survival is of the fittest, not the nicest.

LaBute gives us Chad, the corporate warrior playing a take-no-prisoners game in his pursuit of the corner office, and Howie, a human being so corporately inept that he doesn't even know there's a game on. He's not much better socially. The film opens mere seconds after a woman has bitten him on the ear for asking her what time it is.

The two are out of town for a six-week project. En route, they discover that they've both been dumped by their girlfriends. Chad comes up with a plan of revenge not just against their ex'es, but all womankind. They'll find a wallflower. They'll wine her, dine her and when the six weeks are up, dump her. She'll be suicidal and Chad and Howie will be laughing about it till the end of their days. Howie, to his credit, doesn't leap at the idea. But Chad plays on Howie's need to please and basic insecurity. Howie succumbs.

They target a beautiful, deaf typist. A mistake, perhaps, making her so beautiful and with an invisible disability. But Stacy Edwards as the erstatz love object is so fragile and earnest, that even if you don't buy her not believing that she's date material, it still works as a life lesson in the smooth and studly Chad's ability to manipulate. Especially when that manipulation spurs her on to her own machinations.

"In the Company of Men" has been criticized for being misogynist. It's not. It IS a film ABOUT misogyny. And misanthropy, for that matter. LaBute has caught every nuance of the insidious and hard-rending fallout for both sexes with an economy of dialogue that accurately reflects corporate culture as a metaphor for the world at large. No sugar coating here, but what a fascinating and dangerous date movie it makes. See it with someone you love.

© 1997 Andrea Chase Air Date: 8/6/97

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