RIP: Jack LaLanne & Ben Affleck’s New Movie

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Before we get to today’s blog, we have to wish a fond farewell to Jack LaLanne, who left us at age 96 this past weekend. For those of you not familiar with his work, LaLanne inspired millions of people watching TV to get —  and stay  — in shape. He put physical health as we know it on the map. Long before there was gym culture – in fact, decades before the gyms that we all know about, join, and don’t visit came into being (let alone into vogue). Jack LaLanne was an icon, the original fitness guru, and he shall be fondly remembered.

Speaking of remembering, a few years ago I got laid off. I was part of an entire company division who got pink –slipped on account of “the economy”. First thing in the morning the entire staff of 35 was asked to sit at a long conference table and when the president sat down it must’ve been clear to everyone but me what was about to happen. I wasn’t exactly naïve, but I was largely optimistic about things and thus, while I wasn’t expecting to be given a pony that morning, I wasn’t expecting to get fired either. I remember thinking maybe we were going to get a stern lecture on belt-tightening, rather than the brusque removal of our entire collective wardrobe. The effect was bewildering, and the emotions people go through subsequently are stunning, complicated, and often hard to explain unless you’ve been through it.

The superb new Ben Affleck movie, The Company Men, encapsulates it perfectly in a way that makes you feel exactly what each of its protagonists feels – without stooping to maudlin melodrama or teary outbursts. Plus, regardless of whether you’ve experienced any kind of job termination or not, it’s a wonderful story about what happens to three people during a period of downsizing at a Boston transportation company. Nor does it hurt that the movie is smart, funny and beautifully acted all around. Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper and Rosemarie DeWitt are all in top form, and even though I had  doubts about Kevin Costner’s Boston accent, it ‘s not a problem at all because a) he doesn’t say enough for it to be jarring and b) you’re far more curious about his hair color.

John Wells, the man who wrote and directed it, knows something about human emotion and about what it takes to elicit reactions from millions of people on a weekly basis (he did it quite successfully with ER and The West Wing, among others. Here he takes a subject with which we’re all familiar, and manages to make it both fresh and genuinely fascinating. I was worried that it might actually be gloomy given what it’s about, and I couldn’t have been more wrong. And while it’s not a feelgood movie – there’s a quiet hope about The Company Men that will make you glad you saw it. I am.

Today’s poll:

Ben Affleck stars in The Company Men, which is in theaters right now. Voice your choice in today’s featured poll and tell us which of these Affleck films is your favorite:

1)   Armageddon

2)   He’s Just Not That Into You

3)   The Sum of All Fears

4)   The Town

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