The Bronzer (Peyton Wilson, 2012) USA
Reviewed by Lynn Montgomery. Viewed at Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
“The country is big. But Stu is bigger.”
The tag line for Peyton Wilson’s 12 minute documentary is no exaggeration. It is impossible to exaggerate anything about Stu, because he has already beat you to it. Stu Larkin is the last of a dying breed – a door to door, traveling salesman. And he is really, really, really good at what he does! And he really, really, really loves it! And if that is too many “reallys” and too many exclamation points for you, then you are not ready for Stu. But believe me, Stu is ready for you. He sells bronze baby shoes, something no one truly needs, but by the time Stu has finished his pitch, you are signed up for the super supreme deluxe package in three easy installments.
Peyton Wilson’s portrait of Stu is delightful. It never panders. In The Bronzer, Stu Larkin is not a Coney Island husker to pity. He’s an American icon to celebrate. Willy Loman on steroids, with blisters on his feet and a sparkle in his eye.
Wilson directs the camera to maximum effect. She knows that Stu’s face is a virtual goldmine of pathos and humor. She is confident enough to rest her lens on Stu and let him entertain us with all his Stuisms.
“Every single day I go out I have butterflies!”
“Until I get that first order… Oh Wow! Wow! Wow!”
“These people aren’t half the salesman I am!”
“I’m a salesman. Through and through a salesman!”
“People always remember me. They remember me!”
Wilson’s team works well together to insure that these 12 minutes with Stu are memorable. The editor, Jessica Congdon is particularly skillful in pacing the film, mixing moments of angst with unbridled enthusiasm – just like Willy Loman.
In Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman’s wife, Linda, says to her son about Willy, “…attention must be paid… Attention, attention must be finally paid to such a person.”
One can’t help but see Willy Loman in every shadow of Stu’s life. Stu had a troubled home life, a wife he hated. He says that’s why he became a salesman – to get away from the wife. Stu has a wistful new relationship. We root for him to succeed and we worry for his big heart. Hoping that attention is paid.
Peyton Wilson allows us inside the traveling saleman’s world. It’s grueling but Stu truly finds meaning in his calling. We can’t help but hear Arthur Miller’s great lines, “Willy was a salesman. And for a salesman, there is no rock bottom to the life. He don’t put a bolt to a nut, he don’t tell you the law or give you medicine. He’s a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine. And when they start not smiling back — that’s an earthquake. And then you get yourself a couple of spots on your hat, and you’re finished. A salesman is got to dream, boy. It comes with the territory.”
Or as Stu Larkin, The Bronzer says himself, “The thing about selling that I am kind of disturbed about because I know that I am so good at what I do is that I think I missed my calling in something else that I could have made millions and millions and millions and millions and millions and millions of dollars!”
A salesman is got to dream…