Even as the Great Recession seems to be winding down, things are still tough. Even in the best of times, empty retail space is not unheard of, but sometimes, landlords make decisions which ultimately become costly mistakes.
People are in business to make money, people buying small business for sale to make money too; you might think that their first duty is to create a quality product or provide outstanding service, but make no mistake, profit is the goal. That’s as it should be – after all, nobody would sell me falafel out of the goodness of their heart. Real estate works the same way; landlords purchase and rent property to make a profit, whether it’s an investment that they plan to sell later or otherwise, money is the objective.
Things don’t always go as planned. Take this empty store as an example: three or four years ago, it was a nail salon. The landlord informed the tenant that the rent would be raised in the next lease. The tenant explained that this increase would take her past the breaking point with no chance to establish business credit, and so the best business decision for the tenant would be to close up shop and go work for somebody else. The landlord was unyielding, and the shop was closed. The tenant tried to work out a temporary agreement; she could keep the salon open until the landlord found a new tenant, but the landlord “preferred to show the property empty.”
Aside from a few brief months as a second hand clothing store, the property has remained vacant ever since. (I believe the salon closed sometime in 2008.)
This seemed to me like a gross error in judgment. Perhaps the landlord felt the offer to stay on at the property under the old rate was a bluff. Perhaps costs (taxes and such) had risen to the point that the current rent was no longer profitable for the landlord. I don’t know exactly what happened as all my information came second hand, but my point is, isn’t some money better than no money? Hotels figured this out long ago; it’s better to rent out a room at a reduced rate rather than let it sit empty. Shouldn’t the same principle apply to the rental market, particularly in a recession? In a small town where parking is difficult to come by (meaning it’s hard to get people to patronize your business when there is no convenient place for them to park their car), having an empty rental property seems like a disaster. It seems as though this is even more critical and given the current tightness of credit and the ailing economy, it seems unlikely that people would be flocking to open new small businesses.
Still the property sits empty. Maybe the salon business that once occupied the space would have failed long before now, but as the months turned into years, you have to wonder what could have been for the sake of the landlord, the tenant and the neighborhood.
First, watch the trailer for The Company Men:
Looks good, right? In fact, this is one of the most promising trailers I have seen in a while – although keep in mind I just saw the Transformers 3 trailer… just awful. (I hope NASA is as pissed off as I am.) But yes, it looks like there are all the elements of a good story here along with a promising cast, including Ben Affleck as the guy who lost his job, Tommy Lee Jones and as Chris Cooper his former coworkers, Craig T. Nelson as their boss, and Kevin Costner as Affleck’s brother in law, who is sporting a Boston accent – guess he heard I was ripping on him for not doing a British accent in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
The problem with this movie is… well, it’s just not very good. If somebody pitched the idea of doing a movie about downsizing on a corporate level, it sounds like the stuff Oscars are made of, right? The problem here is I don’t believe this movie for a second. The characters are one dimensional and largely unsympathetic. I’m sorry, I love Tommy Lee Jones as much as anybody, but it’s pretty hard to believe that Maria Bello would have an affair with him – and what’s with the totally random shot of her rack? I love rack as much as anybody, but there was no need to include a shot of her rack while she was getting dressed. It felt like they were there shooting the movie and a producer called the director’s cell and said, “Hey, do me a favor: get some tits into this movie any way you can. Nothing says authentic drama like tits.” Its that kind of movie; you find yourself wondering, what the hell is happening here? Isn’t a million dollar home excessive for an executive that makes under $150k a year? I don’t understand the way Affleck’s character was written – it’s like they were thinking about doing the five stages of grief with him after he lost his job, but in the end, they decided, “Fuck it, lets just do denial, a little anger, and a dash of acceptance.” Why is Cooper’s character the flattest, least interesting character ever? His suicide isn’t a surprise; you’re waiting for it. In the first five minutes of the movie, his character promises to “take an AK47 to the place” if they fire him… The guy is literally throwing rocks at the office building after he gets fired… it’s the most inauthentic thing you’ll ever see on film. When Affleck gets a job working with Costner as a carpenter, you expect it to go somewhere, for Affleck to learn something besides his brother in law isn’t so bad after all. Or, maybe he’ll get good at carpentry. Or maybe that his Porsche and his country club membership weren’t so important after all. But no, that doesn’t happen. Meanwhile, Tommy Lee Jones leaves his wife after he gets fired… presumably because she bought a really expensive end table (like over $10k) in a previous scene… or because he’s having an affair… I don’t know. There just isn’t enough content in the movie to explain it. Then he decides to start his own company and he hires Affleck and they are pretty much back where they started before they got fired and the movie ends. There is no rivalry with the old company – I was thinking it might have been interesting to do a “you were doing business the wrong way, we’re doing it the right way and we’ll be more successful than you,” sort of angle, but it can’t because the movie is over. (And not a moment too soon, it’s a long 104 minutes.) The movie just always leaves you feeling… I don’t know, flat. You never feel what the movie intends for you to feel – when Cooper’s character dies, you don’t fee bad – he was a miserable man, you’re sort of glad he’s dead so you don’t have to listen to him complain anymore.
OK, I’m going to leave it there. The movie isn’t unwatchable, but on a whole, it just doesn’t work. The characters are crappy and the plot is kind of pointless. It’s an ensemble drama that wants to do character portraits, but it doesn’t devote hardly enough time to any of the characters, not even Affleck, who is the star of the damn movie. Nobody really learns anything, nobody changes… There are some good performances in here (sorry, Chris Cooper – I know they wrote you into a corner, but your sad-sack whining just wasn’t working here), but it’s not enough to save the movie. I am neither recommending nor endorsing this movie – its crappy, but if there are no other movies to see, it’s watchable. It’s like the Coors Light of movies.