French for Dummies

Hilary does Versailles

Now in his 60s, Forster has tempered his disciplined, laconic austerity with a hint of a soft interior, which makes him just the person to play Eddie Miller, the aging salesman at the center of Daniel M. Cohen's appealing Diamond Men, who, did he but know it, is in dire need of a little loosening up. Things are not going well for Eddie. His beloved wife has died of cancer, and after his recent heart attack, the corporate entity that took over his company refuses to insure him to go on the road with the line of high-end diamonds he has been successfully selling in small Pennsylvania towns for years. Worse, the only way he can hold on to his job is by training his replacement, Bobby (Donnie Wahlberg), a young blowhard in a bad tie whose work experience to date—stacking vending machines—doesn't prevent him from assuming he knows it all. Bobby's cloddish impetuousness drives the habit-bound Eddie up the wall, while Eddie's methodical routines make Bobby crazy.

What follows is no surprise: mutual irritation will give way to an exchange of skills and the growth of a friendship that transcends temperament and generation. This is a good deal less boring than it sounds. Cohen comes from several generations of Pennsylvania diamond men; Eddie is loosely based on his late father, and the movie is warmed by a fine sense of place and the lovingly elaborated detail of the salesman's life. Still, Cohen has cannily avoided falling into the trap of reverent good taste that often reduces small movies of this kind to pap. Diamond Men has its raucous side, notably when Bobby tries to set Eddie up with a woman at an Altoona massage parlor run by an old friend (Jasmine Guy). But its quiet, solid center is Forster's Eddie, a man who can keep his cool under pressure and, with the merest twitch of a facial muscle, reveal a capacity for change—not necessarily the kind you'd expect—that has lain fallow for far too long.

The Affair of the Necklace was directed by Charles Shyer; written by John Sweet; produced by Shyer, Redmond Morris, Andrew A. Kosove and Broderick Johnson; and stars Hilary Swank, Jonathan Pryce and Simon Baker. Now playing at select LA theaters; Diamond Men was directed, written and produced by Daniel M. Cohen; and stars Robert Forster and Donnie Wahlberg. Now playing at Laemmle's Monica 4-Plex, Santa Monica.

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