Diamond Men
directed by Dan Cohen
(Panorama, 2000)

Diamond seller Eddie Miller (Robert Forster) is getting the hook after 30 years of service. His recent heart attack means he can't be insured to carry around the million dollars in inventory he takes to stores throughout his central Pennsylvania territory. But instead of getting the hook immediately, he's given a chance to earn a little more salary by training his replacement -- the brash, sleepin'-around, hot-rod-drivin' Bobby Walker (Donnie Wahlberg).

So you now have the buddies-on-the-road movie, with anti-buddies. But director Dan Cohen, whose father and grandfather were in the diamond business, makes it much, much more than that.

Sure, it's about life around you passing you by. It's about loss, and taking your lumps, and searching for a little companionship, a little affection.

Some of the affection comes from Tina (Jasmine Guy), an old friend of Bobby's who has turned a loan from him into a bordello. Some comes from Tip Rountree (George Coe), a customer of Eddie's who has lots of years invested in both his business and Eddie's friendship. And some comes from Katie Harnish (Bess Armstrong), who may help Eddie find his way after his wife's death.

Through it all, the slightly-older-than-middle-age guys joking around the questions of mortality, sex and women, through Bobby's bravado, there runs a streak of Cohen's affection for these people that brings out the best in them.

And Diamond Men evolves into a caper with the quiet dependability of Forster as its heart and soul.

Forster's performance is a steady rock, a combination of forlorn dignity in the face of indignities, a man who will not compromise, whose aura of stability is shaken but not broken. It's a performance marked by subtlety, with a script that allows him that freedom.

Guy and Armstrong as hookers (with, I hate to even say this, hearts of gold), turn in performances that ring touchingly true.

That would be one complaint about Diamond Men. The only women with real screen time are cheerful, whitewashed prostitutes -- but are given more backbone and more common sense than many Hollywood roles for women today.

- Rambles
written by Jen Kopf
published 4 October 2003

Buy it from Amazon.com.