Robert Forster is one of America's great actors though alas his career has not gone extremely well for him in terms of important roles. For talent & screen presence he should've been as big as any male superstar, but that outcome is nine-tenths luck rather than nine-tenths talent, & he was stuck with mostly the talent.
Diamond Men (2000) has him playing Eddie, a jewelry representative who spent the best decades of his life on the road selling precious stones to jewelry stores. Then one day he has a heart attack on the road, & when he has recovered, he finds that his company can no longer get insurance for him to carry millions of dollars worth of gems, so so give him a few weeks to train his replacement, Bobby (Donnie Wahlberg).
Bobby is an ignorant young spunk at first very obnoxious. Eddie tries his best to train him, tries in no way to sabotage the young man, though once he's trained his replacement, Eddie's out a job. But he also can't find his way toward being warm toward the younger man, & eventually the fellow breaks down & reveals his insecurity & humanity.
From then on it's a wonderful bittersweet buddy picture. The kid loves the older salesman like a dad. Forster has been widowed some little while, & deeply in debt because of his wife's last lingering illness. There's a sad loneliness in him, as well as a bit of terror because he'll lose his house if he can't work, & it's pretty obvious he'll soon be jobless.
There's really nothing the kid can do about his mentor's plight of future joblessness & likely poverty. But as a guy who is awfully lucky with the ladies, he figures he can do something about Eddie's loneliness. The kind of young women he meets along the road, however, are rather superficial; none of them can be talked into seducing the older gent, as they all want young hunks, not daddies. So Bobby remembers he has a good friend who runs a quality whorehouse.
Though Eddie is at first horrified even by the dating game, let alone resorting to a bordello to get laid, slowly he comes round to the possibility, though the first try is embarrassing & awful. Bobby's friend Katie (Nikki Fritz) promises she can find the perfect "romantic" performer if given a bit of time, & Bobby spends some while convincing Eddie to give it another try.
The next time at the bordello, Eddie meets the most innocent, romantic, beautiful harlot of all time (Bess Armstrong). As a naive guy, he has not a clue that it's a performance. He falls in love, but what is wonderfully wacky, this professional woman knows she is getting on in years & won't be able to sell her ass much longer. She has never given up her dream of meeting a nice guy. The romantic woman she pretended to be for him is an actual component of herself. Despite that hookers with hearts of gold can be so tiresome, in this case the result is one of the most adult, appealing, unusual romances a film can offer.
Throughout this tale there seems to be two directions it could go. They're carrying around millions in gems after all, so it could turn into a buddy heist film or an Elmore Leonard style crime thriller. Or it could remain a "salesmen are losers" film akin to Glencarry Glen Ross (1992), any version of Death of a Salesman, or the horrifying & heartbreakingly compassionate documentary Salesman (1969) or Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman.
The acting in Diamond Men is so good that I kind of dreaded the possibility of it turning into a genre heist film. But incredibly, the film manages to have it both ways. It remains about the lives of two salesmen who've had it pretty hard & come to love one another. When they are beaten & robbed, it provides a sad little climax that costs the young trainee his job too, but he's young after all, & he'll go on to a successful managing career in the vending machine business, still getting laid in every town.
The epilog of what happened to Eddie comes close to spoiling the endearing innocence of our cast-off salesman, but there certainly is some satisfaction in seeing the harlot with the heart of gold now lives the straight life with a man she loves, & he's not nearly as bad off as he feared he was going to end up.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl