Diamond Men

2001, Movie, NR, 100 mins


A true-to-life drama of a travelin' man and his young replacement. For the past 30 years, stolid diamond salesman Eddie Miller (Robert Forster) has traveled the two-lane blacktops that stretch from Harrisburg to the other burgs of south-central Pennsylvania, servicing the mom-and-pop jewelry stores of Main Street, USA. Cordial and professional, Eddie is the kind of salesman who will spend half a day visiting with store-owners whose families he's known for decades. But now, despite a clean bill of health after a heart attack, Eddie's about to be shunted aside by his company, ostensibly because insurers will no longer cover him should anything happen to the million-dollar-wholesale line of gems he carries in his sample case. When Eddie threatens to walk and take his clients with him, he's told to break in the new kid who'll be taking over his route; after that, we'll see. Brassy Bobby Walker (Donnie Wahlberg) completed a couple of weeks of sales school after having serviced a snack-food route — you know, putting Dipsy Doodles into vending machines. Kind of a dipsy doodle himself, with his unpressed suit and coarse language, Bobby gets off to a bad start. Yet little by little, Bobby finds himself humbled, and soon the mask falls as he hungers for Eddie's approval. The taciturn Eddie — whose own mask has been on for so long it's become part of him — eventually reveals how his beloved wife had died of cancer a year ago, draining their savings. Bobby, trying to breathe life into his mentor, takes Eddie to his friend Tina's (Jasmine Guy) brothel outside Altoona. It doesn't work out at first, but the dignified Eddie soon begins courting the attractive, wifely Katie (Bess Armstrong), a former Pittsburgh courtesan who's recently returned to sex work. Things naturally get complicated, but in fresh, believable and unexpected ways. An engaging second feature from writer-producer-director Dan Cohen, who loosely based Eddie after his own "diamond man" father, this is a too-seldom-seen kind of quiet, acutely observed character drama that's about something genuine and universal. Forster, one of the executive producers, chose a sterling showcase for both his old-school talent and his old-fashioned screen presence, and while Walhberg's presence and dialogue may not entirely support Bobby's ladies-man persona, he's likable and effective. The ever-charismatic character actor George Coe stands out as a small-town jeweler grateful for a late-life affair. leave a comment --Frank Lovece

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