In the Company of Men (review)

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Why I Hate Going to the Movies


One of the most obnoxious moviegoers I have ever had the displeasure to share a theater with was sitting right behind me when I went to see In the Company of Men (starring Aaron Eckhart, Matt Molloy, and Stacy Edwards). This annoying woman started off by unpacking a picnic lunch, of which each morsel was wrapped in the crinkliest plastic invented by humans. When she was finished inhaling her food, she began hacking a phlegmy cough into my ears. When she quieted down at last, I thought she was finally settled — and she was: she was snoring, quite loudly. Later, after her nap, she had the audacity to shush someone beside her.
As infuriating as this woman was, she wasn’t anywhere near as mysterious as the rest of the audience.

In the Company of Men is one of the most difficult movies I have ever sat through. Chad (Eckhart) has got to be the most conscience-less character ever depicted on film who wasn’t wearing a swastika on his sleeve. This is a man whose only pleasure in life, it seems, is inflicting humiliation on everyone around him: friends, coworkers, girlfriends. He has not one redeeming quality, no inkling of charm, nothing the viewer can latch onto to empathize with him in any way. After he emotionally tortures his victims, he taunts them with “How do you feel right now?” He is cruel and nasty and does not get the comeuppance he so richly deserves.

This is a brilliant film, but I found it very hard to watch. Chad spends the movie sandblasting the sympathetic Howard and Christine down to raw nothings, and I squirmed in my seat the whole time. And the audience around me was laughing. Laughing.

The action of In the Company of Men is played without irony, completely straightforward. Chad is all too believable a character — there is nothing ridiculous or over-the-top about him. So I can’t figure out why people were reacting so inappropriately. Was it uncomfortable, nervous laughter? Did the audience not know how to react to the kind of unrepentant cruelty they were witnessing?

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