Projections - Movie Reviews

Company Man

Company Man

Shot mainly in Puerto Rico, the crisply moving Company Man has taken longer to earn a US release date than the time recounted in this contrived, intermittently droll farce surrounding a Milquetoast Connecticut schoolteacher who unintentionally started the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion by posing as a CIA agent.

With Woody Allen in a supporting role as a local CIA station chief, Company Man has the texture of his early comedies like Sleeper and Bananas.  And it has some of the bantering of an "I Love Luch" skit and elements of The In Laws, as the film and cast, lead by co-writer/director Douglas McGrath (who aided Allen with the script of Bullets Over Broadway), bring plenty of energy to their line reading in a film that seems like it was made around 1960, when it takes place.

There are plenty of opportunities within Company Man to provide derisive humor on the part of the CIA to topple Fidel Castro from within, and more of the conspiracy theory modus operandi are detailed in the film's "official production dossier."  But the absurdities, if photographed and designed with much attention to interiors and clothing, provide smirks more than real humor.

McGrath and his assistant Peter Askin use a flashback format to graciously send up the era of JFK and Marilyn Monroe, with an interrogating panel dealing with CIA steward, McGrath's preppie and congenial Allen Quimp.  It's 1959 and he is a happy grammar and driver's education instructor at a Greenwich prep school.

Yet, his teacher's salary doesn't suit his insatiable wife, Sigourney Weaver's dapper looking Daisy, who wants to be outfitted in upper-crust furs.  She relentlessly prods him, along with her father, to step up to Manhattan as a high powered manager.  And soon Quimp tells her dad in a steam bath that he's using the teaching position as a front for an undercover agent and when Daisy is ecstatic by this, a juicy novel is on her agenda to be written, as she blurts out her hubby's secret.

The silly humor gets into gear as Ryan Phillippe's touring Soviet dancer Petrov defects right to Quimp and the CIA uses this maneuver to give good press for the agency as Quimp is recognized as one of its own.  Before you know it, the adventure for spreading democracy has begun with our mild-mannered hero relocated to the "Third World backwater," Cuba.

Quimp is informed of a crazed agent who formerly had his job, Crocker Johnson, a gung-ho John Tuturro and his ranting about Cuba close to a violent revolution and a covert Agent X surreptitiously aided the Soviets.  On the loose for two years, McGrath succinctly shows Quimp's mercurial quality in handling this mole.

This jocular romp with over-the-top performances notably by Weaver and Cumming and a preening LaPaglia is well-balanced by Allen and McGrath whose Quimp is most engaging when pointing out the grammatical errors of others.  But, this detached, if tidy account of exuberant espionage mirrors the spirit of its quaint hero.

Company Man

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