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This is one of those films that is perfectly suited to my tastes. I love talky movies, I love Barbara Hershey and I think Barry Levinson is one of the best directors of the 1980s. My father recommended this film and although he refuses to watch Diner (1982) due to the presence of Steve Guttenberg I am glad he appreciates a film that is as funny and touching as this film is. It combines comedy, political commentary and romance to create a film about the lives of two men who mask their self hatred in hurting those around them. Levinson creates a real sense for the city of Baltimore, he never attempts to make it look beautiful but he captures some of the charm of it. This is a great film, better than The Last Emperor (1987), which is also hugely enjoyable and features great dialogue and performances from Richard Dreyfuss, Danny DeVito and Barbara Hershey.
BB Babowsky, Richard Dreyfuss, is an arrogant aluminum siding salesman, a "Tin Man", working in Baltimore in the early 1960s. He meets his mortal enemy in fellow Tin Man Ernest Tilley, Danny DeVito, when he crashes his new Cadillac into Tilley's car soon after buying it. Tilley neglects his wife Nora, Barbara Hershey, and in an attempt to get revenge Babowsky seduces her but he ends up falling in love with her. The Home Improvement Commission, a side effect of McCarthyism, has been established and it will most likely put a stop to the jobs that BB and Tilley hold because they are essentially con artists in how they convince people to pay for aluminum siding.
The main attraction of the film is the dialogue as even when men talk about how unrealistic Bonanza is it conveys something about their characters. Dialogue that is initially funny as BB and his friends discuss inane details of pop culture at the same eatery becomes sad as we realize they never progress beyond these childish topics. The romantic dialogue between BB and Nora is also deftly handled as we see BB realize that he loves Nora because she is understanding and willing to compromise and watch him change through their relationship. When he willingly gives up his license to be a salesman it feels like a natural progression and the tinge of melancholy in the final scene as Tilley has not progressed, a tone present throughout the film.
The actors also deserve credit because with a film that rests on dialogue you need great acting to carry it off and all three leads prove themselves capable. DeVito plays him as a despicable figure and by the second half of the film he has painted himself as not exactly a villain but a figure to be pitied. He is short and stout but is able to deliver his dialogue with pride and courage that would befit a far more physically attractive man. Dreyfuss also plays his character as thoroughly dislikable and even as he softens we understand that he is still a deeply flawed man who carries a lot of baggage with him. His relationship with Hershey while initially feeling incredibly mismatched matures into a genuine, sweet little romance. Hershey brings her luminous presence to a role that is not as fleshed out on the page as she appears on screen. She is sympathetic immediately as the put upon wife but she shows herself to be able to pick herself up and start over even as she makes questionable decisions. They all pair together wonderfully and are cast well in their roles allowing for the film to be entertaining as a comedy as well as being a compelling drama.
The film's political subtext is also well handled as it looms in the background for a large part of the film before coming to the fore in the third act. We see how the deconstruction of a certain way of life for many Americans impacted the lives of two miserable men but also how these changes heralded a new era. The biggest criticism that the film makes of McCarthyism is the use of spies and the attempts to turn friends on one another instead of claiming that the tin men and their efforts were valiant and noble. Levinson uses this political movement far more powerfully than George Clooney in Good Night, and Good Luck (2005) or Sydney Pollack in The Way We Were (1973), he is able to slip political commentary into a comedic film.
This is definitely a film that deserves a watch and Levinson would have been far more deserving of his Best Director Academy Award for this film than for Rain Man (1988).
The second film of Barry Levinson's Baltimore Trilogy uses the proscenium of the accelerating feud between two ego-bruising aluminum siding salesmen to bid a nostalgic farewell to a trade of creative salesmanship and its breed.
Two siding salesman who have a minor car accident, turn into rivals in this Barry Levinson comedy.
I found this to be too long, unfunny, and generally ridiculous. As much as a fan of the cast as I am, this did not work for me at all. Found it to be very boring.
The best of Barry Levinson's films evoke a great sense of time and place, and "Tin Men" is a beautiful example of that, something that it accomplishes through the use of music and a terrific production designer.
This is the second of what's become known as the director's "Baltimore films," and it's a comedy with a lot of dark undertones bubbling just under the surface, another thing it shares with some of Levinson's best. This is a very satisfying film, filled with rich characters are situations both comedic and dramatic that hits close to home. Sometimes they hit a little too close to home, but the performances by both Danny DeVito and Richard Dreyfuss always find just the right tone to keep the film from getting ugly.
Dreyfuss stealing DeVito's wife all because of a traffic accident could have turned things sour, but the actors and Levinson's screenplay never allow that to happen. There are a lot of laughs along the way, although it is true that just as many of the laughs come from the supporting performers as they do from the leads. Jackie Gayle is a riot as DeVito's partner and gets a lot of laughs whether he is musing about the logistics of "Bonanza" or mindlessly raving about Dreyfuss' dancing skills.
The music puts just the right finishing touch on the picture, and not just the usual and expected hits of the '60's. There's also a lot of great music from up-and-coming band Fine Young Cannibals, who had yet to break out in America. "Tin Men" is a comedy with some serious underlying themes than enhance the picture rather than spoil the mood. It's yet another winner from a major talent.
Really great anti-buddy movie.
Terrific salesman movie. It's not quit "Glengarry Glen Ross" , but close.
After a fender bender two aliminum salesmen become enemies and fight and compete against each other. One even goes too far and sleeps with the others wife. Two great actors Danny de Vito and Richard Dreyfus together would be an awesome movie. Unfortunately the movie gets boring here and there with few laughs.
i really enjoyed watching the juvenile getting even battle between danny devito and richard dreyfuss in "tin men". the film's dialogue is so natural and often humorous. director barry levinson did a great job with this one and i'd say it ranks up there with some of his best work.