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Larry Crowne (2011) -vs- The Company Men (2010)

July 2, 2011 Mark Sanchez 4

With unemployment staring down more than 14 million Americans, it’s natural to want to address the issue on screen. Hollywood has helped define hard times before, through a range of classic films from The Grapes of Wrath to It’s a Wonderful Life. But making an uplifting film about surviving the loss of a job is tough. The best movies — like the best people — transform that disappointment into something different, and that’s the challenge our two competitors each tackle in their own way.

Tom Hanks mines the vein with a lighter touch in Larry Crowne, which he directed, starred in and co-wrote with Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding). Despite the uncomfortable subject matter, his Academy Awards, box office history and talent made this an easy project to green light. With Julia Roberts on board, the studio is clearly hoping this comedy about being on the wrong side of downsizing will be too big to fail.

The Company Men, released at Christmastime for Oscar consideration and expanded wide last January, shows us more realistically what it’s like to be squeezed out of the office: Longtime friends carry out their boxes of possessions and, like a re-enactment of Dead Man Walking in the workplace, those left behind wonder who’s next. We learn both who’s next and what they must endure in this film by writer and first-time movie director John Wells, featuring Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper and Kevin Costner looking for traction and self-respect in a bad economy. […]