MEN BEHAVING BADLY
Recently, I came to admire actor Aaron Eckhart after I witnessed his dramatic turn in The Black Dahlia and sensational comic performance in Thank You for Smoking. Reasonably, I was psyched to see In the Company of Men – his breakthrough film way back in 1997. Eckhart plays Chad, a dangerously charismatic businessman. He is one of those good-looking guys, all warm and genial on the outside, but cold and condemnatory on the inside. There is something repugnant and repulsive about him, and yet you cannot look away from him. It’s his best performance in his career.
The movie takes place roughly six weeks. Chad and his buddy Howard (Matt Malloy) are reassigned to a regional office temporarily. Before they relocate, Chad confides in Howard, tells him his girlfriend just broke up with him. Extremely disgusted with the opposite sex, Chad proposes a plan to get back at women in general. At the new workplace, he’ll pick out a woman, preferably “a young thing, wallflower-type, vulnerable as hell.” Both he and Howard will date her simultaneously; a duo of prince charmings who shower her with affections. And right when her spirits has reached the heavens, all high on love, both men will dump her and break her heart. Chad is hoping that with clipped wings, the selected woman is bound to get a good smacking from the ground. Now, why should they do such a monstrous act? According to Chad, it is to restore a little dignity to their lives. If a woman mistreats Chad and Howard again, then both men can at least be consoled in knowing they have mistreated somebody else much worse.
Scorching and hot, Neil La Bute’s debut film is fiery enough to ignite a heated conversation. On the surface, it seems like an exploitative film for it goes along with men who play a sick joke on a woman. To make it even worse, the eventual target is a deaf person (Stacy Edwards). Yet, I greatly admired the film for having the guts and balls to pursue this sinister direction. In return, we are enlightened by the darkness of a man who has no conscience. In the Company of Men is not really about the scheme, but more about the characters, the men. What happens when you are in the company of men? Well, you will get a nasty whiff of machismo. Manliness can be notoriously displayed by bragging and being judgmental behind someone’s back. And of course, women are the most welcome subject to bash and objectify. The Chad character does this all impeccably with a smile. He can sweet-talk almost anyone into agreeing with him. With all-American looks and likeable allure, it is frightening what the guy is capable of. It is even more troubling that Chad could be recognized in real life. Chad could be the cool guy at school. He could be both the bully and the teacher’s pet. By college, Chad is the guy who had slept with most number of women. Ultimately, Chad is the guy men and women both admired. He is the epitome of every handsome devil, privileged and spoiled. He does what he does because he simply can.
Aaron Eckhart, Stacy Edwards, and Matt Malloy
Rated R for language and emotional abuse