Salesman - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Salesman Reviews

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Super Reviewer
July 6, 2007
If I was born in another time, I would want to be born during this time. And this would probably have been my job.
Harlequin68
Super Reviewer
April 10, 2010
"Salesman" is a very effective cinema verite documentary from the Maysles Brothers about bible salesmen operating in Massachusetts and Florida on the surface. Unlike Jehovah's Witnesses, they are not selling religion. The targets are already believers who gave their names at their local churches. What they are really selling is status with the $50.00 bibles that can be bought with cash, C.O.D or, my personal favorite, the Catholic Honor Plan. All dollar amounts are from 1967, so this is an especially pretty penny. If you are a believer, then it is the words that count, not the packaging, unless you are trying to convince somebody else that you are wealthy enough to afford one which most of the people the salesmen talk to cannot. For these salesmen, victory comes in small bunches in this frustrating profession with its long hours on the job and nights in cheap motels. Some succeed like those that make $35,000 to $50,000 but they are rare, even as the bosses urge them that success is within their sights. And Paul Brennan, the center of attention, wonders if maybe he should have taken his family's advice to "join the force and get a pension" during one particularly bad week.
Hellshocked
Super Reviewer
March 6, 2009
It is not long into the film that we begin to realize how amoral its subjects are, none more so than the company that employs them. The salesmen are promised riches limited only by how hard they work to obtain them, despite the fact they only sell to lower and lower-middle class families and the era of the door-to-door salesman is rapidly coming to an end. Because the company peddles nothing more and nothing less than bibles, it publicly acts the part of the concerned social servant, spreading the word of god for a measly US $49.99 payable in up to six installments. Behind closed door meetings, however, the message could not be any more direct: no one's job is safe unless profits pick up considerably.

We do not get to know our four subjects very well, though we spend the most time with Paul Brennan (the badger), a world weary and possibly depressed figure whose considerable experience as a salesman has sapped his confidence and left him empty. As the film progresses he becomes more and more desperate, culminating in a public humiliation at the hands of one of his friends that is incredibly painful to watch. That we can empathize so deeply with a character whom we have seen, among other things, pester an old woman into ponying up the cash for a bible she doesn't need, using a fake irish brogue and lying about his family history to secure sales, is a testament to the film. Unlike the other characters, most of whom are more traditionally likable (save for the group's supervisor, a nasty piece of work who was clearly a high school bully and now found a way to make money off his talent for intimidating people into doing what he wants), we get the feeling Paul never had a choice, never gave himself one. He is lost and doesn't know it, and his anxiety and despair increase by the minute. Seeing his coworkers mock him, his low sales figures and his tired eyes it is clear his days as a salesman are numbered.

I would not be friends with any of the film's subjects (and I'd beat the crap out of at least one of them on general principle) but the film allows us to view their humanity and glimpse into a bygone era without becoming a nostalgic apologia. Far from it. By remaining detached and simply observing, the film is far more spiritual than anything relating to the company it depicts. It loves its sinners, while hating their sin.
½ February 2, 2008
Groundbreaking documentary. A bit slow for the 2000's, but if you pause to see the character development and hypocrisy (lying Bible salesmen), then you may be rewarded with a satisfying movie.
April 2, 2007
Just watched for film class... characters are interesting in that they're both sympathetic and, at times, reprehensible. Toward the end I felt like I let a salesman into my house and he just wouldn't leave.
January 19, 2016
There should be more films like this. It was like watching a memory.
½ August 17, 2015
A classic and important documentary directed by the genius Maysles Brothers. The cinema verite classic has tons of influential filmmaking techniques, that make it one of the most important documentary films of all time. The film is very sad in it's portrayal of struggling salesmen who try to sell expensive bibles to poor families and get rejected. The film makes you feel awful for both the failing salesmen and the poor families they visit.
January 12, 2012
I found this more funny than depressing, and also very instructive in how to deal with people, get what you want, and not be a tool. The American Dream is still very much alive, and worth trying for -- you just can't let it consume you. The successful men in this movie make the system work for them, and -- most importantly -- stay positive. The Badger's problem is that he obviously has depression, and that has never helped anybody achieve anything. It must be fought and subdued at all costs. In the commentary, Albert Maysles suggests that the Badger was not cut out for sales and should have been a postal clerk, even though the Badger rails against the predictability of a 9-to-5 office job with a pension. This is another important lesson of Salesman: Get in where you fit in. Do work that suits your temperament and abilities.
½ February 3, 2015
A singular documentary that makes you very thankful that you are not selling Jesus on the HP.
September 10, 2014
Purposely uncomfortable at times, ''Salesman'', by the Mayles brothers, opens up alienation in the most genuine way.
December 16, 2013
Salesman was a groundbreaking work in documentary feature film history, where the legendary Maysels brothers took the cameras on the road and followed a group of Bible salesmen. Once again, their careful choice of an interesting subject paid off in what is rightly regarded as a milestone of direct cinema. The language of the film simply differentiates itself from previous documentaries, as the film feels like a narrative feature with comedic and dramatic elements that give it a much greater and more accessible appeal. As mentioned before, the subjects themselves with their varied colourful personalities makes the film entertaining and engaging all throughout.
September 29, 2013
Like many Meley's documentaries, this feels melancholy and seems as if not that much is going on, but, like all of their work, is so engaging and really keeps you thinking after the initial viewing. I've never seen such consistently haunting documentary filmmakers; their films just stick in my head for days.
½ September 11, 2012
This doc feels surprisingly contemporary in its following of several bible salesman. It shows everything from the door-to-door pitches, to the salesman conventions, to the personal frustrations. The Maysles allow the story to tell itself, often sitting in particularly awkward situations and letting things play out on their own.
½ October 4, 2012
Sad documentary following the life of door-to-door bible salesmen, who try their best to push a $50 bible onto lonely housewives 1966. As sad as it is revealing about the day-to-day struggle of the mid-to-late 60s, the Maysles Brothers are somehow able to make us compassionate for these men, and yet disgusted by what they do.
August 1, 2011
I stumbled across this film and really enjoyed it. It's a documentary made in 1968 and it's just loaded with sub text. It's not a feel good film, but it's one that you'll probably not be able to quit thinking about after you watch it because it will affect you on many different levels. It was one of the more evocative films I've seen in a long time.

It's done so well, you might forget you're watching a documentary. Everyone in it is so good and so believable. It's a reality show format that's about four decades ahead of its time.

It seems like the kind of film you can watch over and over and get something different out of it every time. It'll take you back to real, "real housewives" era. As for the men, it made me think of how many people hung on to horrible jobs back then because job hopping wasn't the thing to do. By the way, the guys who made this movie went on to make "Gimme' Shelter."
½ January 12, 2011
Oh God, I hate movies that are not a happy ending. but I don't skip watching them anyway because I learn from it.
March 6, 2011
I'm sure the inspiration for Jack Lemmon's character in Glenberry Glen Ross and later the shit salesman from The Simpsons. Heartbreaking but real. Great Doc
Harlequin68
Super Reviewer
April 10, 2010
"Salesman" is a very effective cinema verite documentary from the Maysles Brothers about bible salesmen operating in Massachusetts and Florida on the surface. Unlike Jehovah's Witnesses, they are not selling religion. The targets are already believers who gave their names at their local churches. What they are really selling is status with the $50.00 bibles that can be bought with cash, C.O.D or, my personal favorite, the Catholic Honor Plan. All dollar amounts are from 1967, so this is an especially pretty penny. If you are a believer, then it is the words that count, not the packaging, unless you are trying to convince somebody else that you are wealthy enough to afford one which most of the people the salesmen talk to cannot. For these salesmen, victory comes in small bunches in this frustrating profession with its long hours on the job and nights in cheap motels. Some succeed like those that make $35,000 to $50,000 but they are rare, even as the bosses urge them that success is within their sights. And Paul Brennan, the center of attention, wonders if maybe he should have taken his family's advice to "join the force and get a pension" during one particularly bad week.
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