Follow TV Tropes


Film / In the Company of Men

Go To

In the Company of Men is a cult 1997 independent black comedy/drama film written and directed by Neil LaBute and starring Aaron Eckhart and Matt Molloy.

It tells the story of two Jerkass co-workers, Chad (Eckhart) and Howard (Molloy), who have recently been dumped by their respective girlfriend and fiancée, seeking revenge against the female gender. So Chad cooks up a scheme that involves going out with and baiting an insecure young deaf coworker named Christine (Stacy Edwards), then breaking up with her and emotionally destroying her. Noted for its extremely realistic and casual portrayal of misogyny and its dark character study, the film received good reviews and won the Filmmakers Trophy at the Sundance Film Festival.

The film marked the first in a series of collaborations between LaBute and Eckhart, including LaBute's second film Your Friends & Neighbors.

Tropes used by this film include:

  • The Bad Guy Wins: Not only does Chad emotionally cripple poor Christine as per the original plan, but he also destroys his "friend's" life as an added bonus and he is the only character who makes it out of the film content and happy.
  • Black Comedy: When one of the characters in your comedy is a completely played-straight sociopath, it's gonna be dark.
  • Consummate Liar: Chad is eerily convincing when he pretends to be in love with Christine.
  • Downer Ending: Chad ends up getting off scot-free, and both Howard and Christine end up emotionally broken messes.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Chad is very charismatic and plays the role of a gentleman well enough, but he's really a sexist, sadistic, sociopathic Jerkass.
  • For the Evulz: Chad's reason for screwing up both Howard and Christine was his own sadistic pleasure.
    Howard: Then why?
    Chad: Because I could.
  • Hate Sink: Chad, being a huge unlikable Jerkass and all.
  • Held Gaze: Non-romantic variation. After Chad laughingly tells Christine the truth, they stare into each others eyes for a long time, her with betrayed fury and heartbreak, him with sadistic curiosity and amusement at her pain.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: Chad. Howard comes across as this initially, but possibly redeems himself, depending on your interpretation of his actions at the end.
  • Indignant Slap: Helpless, impotent variation. When Chad confesses everything to Christine, and literally laughs about it because, in his own words, he can't keep a straight face while trying to let her down easy he asks her how it feels. After a few moments of trying to control herself, she slaps him, but he just asks "that's all? It only hurts that much?" before leaving her to sob.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: After Chad tells Christine the truth, she is left so breathless with rage and betrayal that her sobs afterwards are more like gasps and retches than more standard crying.
  • In Love with the Mark: A non-lethal variant. Ostensibly, the plan is for Chad and Howard to date Christine simultaneously, and then dump her on the same day. Over the course of six weeks, Howard finds himself developing real affection for Christine.
  • Jerkass: Chad. Howard also counts, but due to how pathetic he ends up becoming, some people think of him as a Jerkass Woobie. Chad comes across as a Jerk with a Heart of Jerk
  • Karma Houdini: Chad got away scot-free, though to be fair Aaron Eckhart himself stated that Chad would end up in rehab ten years later, and sociopaths do tend to burn out (he would have amassed a reputation for sadism and hurting others and now no one will trust him). So even if Karma doesn't get him in the film it may catch up to him eventually.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Chad, full stop.
  • Smug Snake: Chad is smart, handsome and successful, and boy does he know it. To be fair to him, The Bad Guy does Win, so his confidence is largely justified.
  • The Sociopath: Once again, Chad. He is a charming and confident man, able to easily befriend anyone and appear as a likable guy (which greatly helps him in seducing Christine), a skilled manipulator and a master liar. He is also without any empathy and remorse, hurting people for his own profit (in Howard's case) and fun (in Christine's case).
  • Speech-Centric Work: The plot is driven forward almost entirely by spoken dialogue, with most physical actions and major plot events happening offscreen. This was in part due to budget constraints.
  • Speech-Impeded Love Interest: Chad and Howard's plan hinges on Christine being every bit the trope. Subverted and Played Straight: Howard ends up really falling in love with her, Chad is actually grossed by her deaf accent, and picks on her just because she's much easier to bully in the endgame
  • Shrinking Violet: Even Chad, the local sociopath, had to admit Christine is actually one of the hottest girls in the company. He also realizes she's overtly conscious of her deaf accent to the point of withdrawing herself from every social interaction due to the fear of being bullied and humiliated for her condition.
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: Chad is handsome, charming, intelligent, and an unrepentant sociopathic monster.
  • Twist Ending: Chad's girlfriend didn't really break up with him, ostensibly his motivation for the "game" in the first place. More generally, the main twist is that the Chad's game isn't really played against Christine (its victim though she undoubtedly is) - it's against Howard.
  • Villain Protagonist: Chad, and Howard at a push (though the latter might be more along the lines of an Anti-Hero).
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Downplayed. We see the brief act and its result, but at an angle and with no closeups.
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: Variation. Chad has no feeling whatsoever of love (and no apparent interest in learning about it) but his behaviour when he laughingly confesses everything to Christine does suggest a genuine curiosity about what her pain feels like, presumably because he knows he's incapable of feeling anything like that himself.