Tonight’s BAAM was just inches away from being a day drinking special (which would have been oddly fitting), but I decided to keep it classy and leave my beer consumption for after 7 pm. Now, judging from the title, you might be a little confused about tonight’s combo. Wilco Tango Foxtrot seems oddly militaristic and The Company Men seems like a benign enough name devoid of guns, but the two actually have quite a bit in common. Lagunitas described their Limited Release Wilco Tango Foxtro Ale as a “jobless recovery ale,” a subject which The Company Men deals with directly. And in light of our socio-economic/political times, (and my recent escape from unemployment) this pairing seemed particularly poignant. Apologies in advance if my political beliefs rise to the surface, as this is a blog about beer and movies and not about politics. But let’s started.
While it seems that many people have heard of The Company Men, not many people have seen it. This 2010 non-indie indie movie has a star-studded cast addressing the issues that we as Americans seem to be wrestling with each day. The cast features a litany of abnormally attractive and successful actors including Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper, Kevin Costner, Maria Bello, Rosemarie DeWitt (one of my personal favorites). The successful cast of The Company Men delves into issues of unemployment, executive pay, corporate greed and American manufacturing while grounding these subjects in deeply human stories. While at times the narrative uses a bit too much corporate jargon, the story itself is presented in layman’s terms. Staggeringly successful and loyal employees at a transportation manufacturing company (primarily ships) are laid off and forced to come to terms with their own affluent, Boston lifestyles and the lifestyles of those above them on the corporate ladder. Having been overpaid their whole careers, men like Ben Affleck have a difficult time adjusting to life without the luxuries on which they have to rely. And while the film only briefly touches on issues of class and wage disparities, it does address the excessive compensation of corporation’s top executives in relation to the layoffs of lower-level employees. Tommy Lee Jones’s character is one of these overpaid executive and seems to have a conscious about the whole situation, though never really takes a stand. In one of his more poignant moments, he suggests that the CEO, his boss and old friend, sell a Degas painting in order to raise revenue and satisfy stockholders in stead of firing employees, a scene that illustrates the gap between executives and their employees. There’s a lot to be said about this film and its argument against corporate greed, but that could take awhile, so we’ll move forward in the hopes that you’ll actually go watch the movie. In terms of actual craft however, I felt this film was a bit clunky. While it’s held together by strong performances from some of the best actors around, the editing style is choppy and jarring. Sequences slam in to one another, distorting time and relationships in a frustrating way that breaks the narrative. For example, apparently Tommy Lee Jones’s character gets a divorce? It’s unclear, but it happens and it’s frustrating. While each scene and sequence is generally quite beautiful and meaningful, they do not always mesh together cleanly. Another quick point I’d like to make before moving on is this film’s contention that American manufacturing is still the backbone of our economy. Not to get overly political, but this conceit is a bit naive and nostalgic. While it makes us viewers feel proud, it is not really honest in a film that takes the time to prove its honesty. And while I feel that the manufacturing industry is important to our economy, I’m not convinced that it holds the same redemptive qualities that it does for our fictional protagonists.
So did our Wilco Tango Foxtro jobless recovery ale help us get through the unemployment blues? Well, it certainly was a pick me up. Sporting a hearty 7.85% ABV in a hefty 22 oz bottle (a bomber, if you want to be cool like me), this beer can turn any bad day around. While the bottle makes a note of this beer’s maltiness, I found that the beer’s hoppiness was its defining flavor characteristic. This brown colored ale has an almost IPA-esque floral hoppiness to it that can be a bit bitter at first. However, you do notice the aforementioned malt when that hoppiness dissipates into a balanced and smooth finish. It’s actually a bit surprising when you experience that transition, but Lagunitas somehow makes it work. So for the IPA-shy, I don’t know if this is beer for you. But those of you who are willing to trying something a bit more bitter, I would definitely give this one a shot.
While unemployment is nothing to celebrate, BAAM’s first economic downturn-themed review was quite a success. With a thoughtful, if at times clunky, movie to watch and a interesting, balanced beer to drink, I’m sure you’ll feel a little better by the end of the evening, regardless of how much money you’re bringing in.
Tonight’s Tasting Notes:
The Company Men:
-An earnest, however liberal, look at corporate greed and unemployment.
-Tommy Lee Jones plays the ever-elusive, well-intentioned corporate VP with a heart of gold.
-Ben Affleck’s character is much older than Ben Affleck appears. To a fault.
Lagunitas Wilco Tango Foxtrot Ale:
-Gorgeous, brown color. Minimal head.
-Bitter hoppiness at the front. Smooth, mellow maltiness at the finish.
-Not sure I get where the name is coming from…