Eddie Miller is not your average movie hero. A diamond salesman, he's been crisscrossing central Pennsylvania for 30 years, hawking his wares in such a way that you barely know he's there until he's writing up your order. Eddie's a safety-first kind of guy. Because he's carrying a million-dollar briefcase around with him, he likes to keep a low profile. And he's never done anything to cause his company to lose faith in him.
But in the opening scene of Diamond Men, writer-director Daniel Cohen's admirably low-key comedy, Eddie has a minor heart attack next to his car. And before you can say Death of a Salesman, he's getting the run-around from his supervisor, who tells him he's no longer insurable. All but fired, Eddie finally agrees to train his replacement, a low-rent ladies' man played by Donnie Wahlberg. Obviously, Wahlberg's Bobby has a few things to learn from Eddie. Less obviously, Eddie has a few things to learn from Bobby (about getting laid). They're both diamonds in the rough.
A little rough itself in places, Diamond Men gets by on its insider's feel for the gemstone business, that and some impressively lived-in performances. Cohen's the son and grandson of diamond men, so he knows the tricks of the trade ' how to tell the difference between the real thing and plastic, for example. When Robert Forster's Eddie holds a tiny piece of compressed coal between the prongs of his tweezers, we know we're in good hands. And that goes for the rest of Forster's performance as well.
An actor who's been called underappreciated so many times that you have to wonder whether it's true, Forster never flirts with the camera. And he's always on the verge of seeming too stiff, a graduate of the Sgt. Friday School of Acting. But that works for Eddie, who needs to loosen up but may have forgotten how, if he ever knew in the first place. As Eddie's trainee, a guy who wears leopard-skin underwear, Wahlberg is perhaps half as charming as one would want him to be, which seems about right.
Diamond Men could be called Songs of Experience, so sweetly does Cohen negotiate the terrain between Eddie's maturity and Bobby's immaturity. It's not The Color of Money by a long shot, but if you've ever wondered what a traveling salesman thinks about on the ride from Altoona to Shippensburg, here's your chance to find out.