In the Company of Men is a cult 1990s 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.
Tropes used by this film include:
- Armor-Piercing Slap: Subverted - Christine slaps Chad when he tells her what's really going on, but he remains entirely unfazed.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- In Love with the Mark: Howard provides a variant.
- 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 Witha Heartof 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
- The Sociopath: Once again, Chad. He is a charming and confident man, able to easily befriend anyone and appear as likable guy (which greatly help him 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.
- They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: Chad.
- Twist Ending: Chad's girlfriend didn't really break up with him, ostensibly his motivation for the "game" in the first place.
- Villain Protagonist: Chad, and Howard at a push (though the latter might be more along the lines of an Anti-Hero).