October 3, 2002
‘Diamond’ Story Has Familiar Ring
Dan Cohen wasn't told what his father did for a living until he was a teenager -- not because his father was an underground criminal or international spy. In fact, Cohen's father was a diamond salesman -- a job rife with risk of robbery.
That's the premise of Cohen's film "Diamond Men," a lighter take on Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" and a tribute to Cohen's late Jewish father.
Eddie Miller (Robert Forster) is an aging diamond man, a quiet type and a widower. As Cohen describes him, "he's lived honestly and been a good worker." No longer insurable since his recent heart attack, Eddie agrees to train his replacement, Bobby Walker (Donnie Wahlberg), to try to keep his job. Walker is an arrogant young guy with a penchant for rock music, fast cars and fast women.
The story delves deeply into the psyches of the two men, whose relationship begins antagonistically, but soon develops into friendship. But one thing we never hear about is religion.
While the diamond business is historically a Jewish industry, this fact is implied, but never stated, in the film. Cohen points out his choices of character names: Eddie's last name is Miller, a Jewish last name and a nod to playwright Arthur Miller. Eddie's late wife is named Sarah.
"The business, as it used to be in my father's and grandfather's day, was primarily Jews," Cohen said. But "most of the customers are not Jews, and it's a business based on trust," he said. "I didn't want to weigh the movie down with anything additional, because there's so much in there already."
What's in there is a buddy movie, a love story and a sexy diamond caper. It's also an ode to salesmanship. "I wanted to set the record straight from 'Death of a Salesman,'" Cohen said, "and show a guy with a life different from Willy Loman."
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