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In the Company of Men Movie Review

chad labute howard eckhart

Two women I know went to see In the Company of Men. One seemed to like it, the other came back spitting cotton. I was prepared for the worst, but wound up liking all but one sequence of Neil LaBute's biting first film, and I especially appreciated its ironic conclusion. In the Company of Overgrown Infants would be a more accurate description of the friendship between Chad (Aaron Eckhart) and Howard (Matt Malloy). To identify these two creeps as misogynists would be to miss the depth and scope of their hatred. Chad and Howard set the record for what they actually are: Misanthropes! They hate everybody: males, females, minorities, the handicapped, younger colleagues…the list goes on and on. After checking out Howard's injured ear (inflicted by a woman, Grrr…) in a public bathroom for men, Chad comes up with the ultimate revenge. Why don't they both go out with the same insecure, vulnerable woman, treat her like crap, and then, when they've done enough damage to last her entire lifetime, bust up with her?! And so they do. (Has this ever happened to me? Yeah, once—by one misanthrope, and that was enough, Ouch!) Chad and Howard find Christine, a lovely, shy, deaf colleague (Stacy Edwards, who's outstanding) and start to chat her up and date her up, one week at a time. During the title cards announcing every new week, Ken Williams’ pulsating score escalates in intensity and volume. Of course, Christine, who isn't in on their brilliant scheme, changes all the rules and all the strategies. There is a subtle yet significant difference between a movie which is misogynistic and a movie about misogynistic characters. LaBute treads a dangerous line here, but his artistic vision is mature enough for careful viewers to realize that he is, in fact, busting Chad and Howard on their language, their attitudes, and their behavior. The one sequence where LaBute overstacks the deck occurs when Chad asks a black male colleague to unzip so he can check out whether he has the necessary equipment for the job. Yeah, yeah, we know that Chad is the lowest form of life on Earth, but he really shouldn't be in one piece after making a request like that. Guillotine splicer to the rescue, please! Aside from that, In the Company of a Men is satire most savage.

1996 (R) 93m/C Matt Malloy, Aaron Eckhart, Stacy Edwards, Mark Rector, Jason Dixie, Emily Cline, Michael Martin, Chris Hayes; D: Neil LaBute; W: Neil LaBute; C: Anthony P. Hettinger; M: Ken Williams. Independent Spirit Awards ‘98: Debut Performance (Eckhart); Sundance Film Festival ‘97: Filmmakers Trophy; Nominations: Independent Spirit Awards ‘98: Best Actress (Edwards), Best First Feature. VHS, Closed Caption, DVD

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