The Tyranny of the Action Movie

I don’t think The Company Men looks terribly good, though to his credit, Ben Affleck is probably the least maudlin thing in it, and it’s not his fault the writer and director set him up to have little girls praying for his future employment:

But I do think this is a good illustration of how bad action movies can be for men’s careers. Normally we think of them as an advantage. Action movies and thrillers give male actors a chance to kick ass, save the girl, deliver a terrific speech or shut a bad one down with a well-placed bullet. But all of those things are predictable, and they’re exterior. How you are when you’re worried the world is about to blow up isn’t actually how you are 99 percent of the time if you’re an action hero and 100 percent of the time if you’re the rest of us. And as a result, it’s not very indicative, and there’s room only for short, sharp jolts of growth, not long-term realization and development.

In their post with this trailer in it, I Watch Stuff joked that “How shocked are you that Tommy Lee Jones and Ben Affleck are in a film together in suits and it’s not some sort of political thriller? You’re very shocked.” It’s totally true, though. Affleck has never shown as much in an action movie as he did getting his heart broken, in multiple ways, in the final scene of Chasing Amy. Even those circumstances were, uh, unusual compared to this, which is an entirely ordinary, un-cinematic story. The Company Men will probably fail because it’s not remotely escapist, and because it’s true to what millions of folks are going through instead of a tiny minority of humanity. But that’s too bad, for movies in general, and for male actors who would like to connect with something genuine.