The tag line for 'The Company Men,' the new Ben Affleck movie set to hit theatres this week, says it all. "In America, we give our lives to our jobs. It's time to take them back." Right off the bat, we know the flick is going to feature some life-changing epiphany, where at least one of the main characters realizes it's time to put down the Crackberry and start living life.
In the wake of the biggest economic downturn since The Great Depression, a premise like this is sure to resonate with a big chunk of the population. After all, people have recently learned the hard way that no matter how much of your life you devote to "the man," you can still get that pink slip any time. And even if you do manage to avoid the axe, landing that corner office won't mean anything if you had to sacrifice friends and family to get there, as so many movies have hammered over our heads before this one.
'The Company Men' follows a group of recently downsized corporate employees as they try to rebuild their lives. Affleck's character is offered a dry walling job by his brother-in-law, played by Kevin Costner. Chris Cooper, Tommy Lee Jones, Maria Bello and Rosemarie DeWitt round out the substantial cast, and John Wells ('ER') directs.
There's certainly no shortage of movies centered on the premise that there's more to life than work. As North American culture continues to define people by what they do, this "work isn't everything" genre will undoubtedly thrive, appealing to the corporate drones who are longing for their own life-changing epiphany to free them from the ladder climb.
In honor of 'The Company Men,' here's a look at the Top 5 reformed movie workaholics.
- 1. Bud Fox in 'Wall Street.' Charlie Sheen's naïve ladder-climbing character worships the iconic super-capitalist Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas. Gekko represents everything this movie is trying to tell us is bad: greed, corruption, selfishness. The only problem is that he looks like he's having so much fun, with his lavish home, beautiful women, giant cellphone and in-office treadmill. It takes Bud almost the entire movie, but he ultimately realizes that Gekko doesn't represent the good life, and instead redirects his attention to becoming a decent, hard-working man of integrity like his pa, played by Sheen's real-life dad, Martin.
- 2. Ted Kramer in 'Kramer vs. Kramer.' Workaholic dad Ted, played by Dustin Hoffman, is forced to put his career on hold after his wife leaves him to take care of their son Billy alone. Ted resents Billy at first, but as the movie progresses he has -- yes -- a life-changing epiphany and realizes that Billy is more important than work. Awwwww. The two develop a strong father-son bond and Ted morphs into a devoted family man.
- 3. Ryan Bingham in 'Up in the Air.' Frequent flyer extraordinaire Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) doesn't have a family to neglect. He has devoted his life to his career, and relishes his on-the-road lifestyle. Naturally, a series of events lead him to change his outlook, like when he attends his sister's wedding and realizes he hasn't really been there for his family at all, or when his lover Alex tells him his life is a vacation. Since he doesn't have a wife or kids to win back, his emotional transformation is a tad more subtle, but it's clear that Ryan is a changed man.
- 4. Fletcher Reede in 'Liar Liar.' Jim Carrey's character, Fletcher, has a bit of help in reaching his life-changing epiphany. His neglected son, Max, is frustrated that his workaholic dad is constantly lying to him and breaking promises. On his birthday, Max wishes his Dad could no longer lie. His wish comes true, translating into a series of funny, socially awkward situations for Fletcher. Of course, he comes to realize that ignoring his son in favor of work is wrong, and changes his ways.
- 5. Andy Sachs in 'The Devil Wears Prada.' Andy (Anne Hathaway) almost loses her super-hot, super-sensitive boyfriend (Adrian Grenier) when she becomes completely absorbed by her menial-yet-demanding job as a personal assistant to the evil magazine editor played by Meryl Streep. Her life-changing epiphany is clearly illustrated on-screen when she symbolically tosses her work phone into a fountain in Paris. Good thing she came to her senses before her man completely moved on.