Bastards. That's whose company we keep In the Company of Men, writer/director Neil Labute's in your face psychological (objective story domain) horror show of men who betray women, men who betray colleagues, and men who betray each other's trust (relationship story problem). How fitting that the opening shot is of a men's restroom, a place where women are exempt, with the exception of the maid who cleans up. It is here where we first see Howard, the main character--a balding be-er (mc approach) dabbing at his ear, nicked by a woman he has unwittingly offended (mc concern-preconscious). Howard relays the incident to Chad (influence character) as they sit in the airport courtesy lounge, waiting for their flight. In appearance, Chad is everything Howard is not--bleached blond and chiseled, starched and smooth. He lights a smoke, decisively snaps his lighter shut, and spews his vitriolic outrage towards feminists, upstairs executives, and Young Turks:
This is the point I was making earlier, the 90s--can't even afford to blink--I miss too much (ic concern-progress) . . . we're like ten years out of university, you know, that's all, just ten. And I got a whole crop of these young dudes after my desk (ic critical flaw-worth). Taking jobs as production assistants. I mean, the title didn't even exist two years ago . . . bunch of vultures waiting for me to tire out. You know I get low numbers two months in a row, huh--they're going to feed on my insides (ic issue-threat).
The objective story goal explores the roles (being) played in corporate politics, particularly when enacted to manipulate the power structure. Howard and Chad are on a six week (story limit-timelock) assignment of which Howard has been put in charge--a fact that galls status (ic domain-universe) conscious Chad. Learning (story prerequisite), that Howard has just been dumped by his fiancée, Chad conceives (story requirement) of a way to undermine Howard's new position by sidetracking him from the big picture (mental sex-male)--a difficult task since Howard is results oriented (mc symptom) and has a fixed mindset (mc domain) on the business at hand. Howard, however, is credulous, and believes Chad when he says his own heart has just been stomped. He is wide open to Chad's scheme--an over the top vicious blood sport (rs domain-physics)--an act of revenge against all women:
Listen--we're in town for six weeks, right? . . . And this is perfect, what with the break-up thing you've got going too. Say we were to find some gal . . . and this person is just vulnerable as hell, you know, young thing, wallflower type, whatever, or like, disfigured in some way. . . . We take a girl of that type . . . and we both hit her. You know, small talk, a dinner date, flowers. . . . We just do it (rs concern), you know, you and me, upping the ante all the time. And suddenly she's got two men, she's calling her mom, she's wearing makeup again. And on we play, and on and on. And then one day, out goes the rug and us pulling it hard. And Jill, she just comes tumbling after. Hour later we're on our flight back to civilization like nothing ever happened. Trust me, she'll be reaching for the sleeping pills within a week. And we will laugh about this until we are very old men.
Howard reluctantly decides (story driver) to fall in with Chad, and the head games begin. A deaf secretary, young and graceful, is courted by both men. Chad charms Christine and, at the same time, skillfully (rs issue) sabotages the project. Harried Howard, overworked (mc growth-stop), worried (mc issue), and distracted by his romantic feelings for Christine, passes off less than okay work as accurate (os problem), oblivious (rs inhibitor-thought) to Chad's tampering. Howard is further undermined by his critical flaw of fantasy. He equates need with love, and assumes Christine will forgive him for making her the quarry in the diversion, and that his camaraderie with Chad will remain intact after he breaks their trust by confessing all to the secretary. The effect (os symptom) is that Christine rejects the loser. She is in love with Chad and confronts him (os response-cause) with what she knows (os catalyst). Amused, Chad admits to the deception and stands back, inhaling Christine's pain like a rare cigar. Game over, man.
And Howard comes tumbling after. Chad's intolerable (os solution-non-accurate) behavior is rewarded--he is less capable for the job, yet his acrobatics on the corporate ladder (ic solution-process) render him a promotion (outcome-success) and Howard a demotion. The relationship story relationship ends with Howard's gut-wrenching realization that Chad's girlfriend back home had never left him--that indeed Chad had lied to create the illusion of an even playing field for the two men, adolescents really, in a state of arrested emotional development ("I don't want to shock you, Howard. . . . I mean, it's really just the same crap we used to play in school.")
Ultimately, the real abhorrence is not the ferocious sociopath Chad, but the relatively sane Howard who voluntarily entered into the escapade. He has become undone (resolve-change)--last seen in Christine's new place of employment screaming over and over again "Listen, listen, listen, listen, listen, listen, listen, listen, listen, listen, listen, listen, listen, listen, listen, listen, Listen To Me, listen, listen . . ."--words that literally and figuratively fall on deaf ears (judgment-bad).