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Filmmakers (and brothers) Albert and David Maysles follow four employees of a company that makes expensive, ornate, illustrated bibles as they attempt to sell the items door-to-door to less-than-interested customers, who are mainly poor or lower-middle-class Catholics with little money to spend on pretty Bibles. Written by
Gary Dickerson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Could have been more then but the cold look at the sales business, the sellers and the potential buyers is well done and makes for engaging if rather downbeat entertainment
Paul Brennan is "The Badger". Charles McDevitt is "The Gipper". James Baker is "The Rabbit" and Raymond Martos is "The Bull". However this is not yet another British gangster film from Guy Ritchie but rather a fly-on-the-wall documentary following these four door-to-door bible salesman as they go about their trade and shoot the breeze with one another. Selling for as much as $40 per ornate book, the target audience are mostly poor catholic families who are given a hard sell before being offered a range of payment methods. In the middle of a sales slum, we follow Paul Brennan as he tries to break his losing streak.
Probably the worst job I have done wasn't that bad but was when I was a cleaner 7 mornings a week while also going through university. It felt worse because I also worked weekend evenings in a bar. However I would happily do either of those again if the only other option open to me was telephone or door-to-door sales because to me it is a soul-destroying job. I know some people can excel at it but others scrape by on their commissions, trying to force products onto others that they wouldn't buy themselves. This documentary confirms my thoughts on the job as we follow Paul Brennan on sales calls, conferences and sales meetings. Those familiar with Glengary Glenross will know where they are already and personally I kept seeing Brennan as the Gill character from the Simpsons, frantically just trying to get by. The film doesn't provide much more insight than that because it is very much a fly-on-the-wall affair that lets the characters speak for themselves.
By doing this it lays bare the approach of the sales game. It is depressing for several reasons and it made me feel sympathy for Brennan as often as I felt repulsed by him. He doesn't care about those he is selling to and he lies, applies pressure and guilts his marks into buying something they don't need and often don't actually want. But it is easy to feel for him because he is doing a job. I have never had someone coming door-to-door astonish me with a service or product that I suddenly wanted, especially nowadays, if you want it and can afford it, you probably already have it, but the sales staff still need to sell and Brennan's way is the most basic approach. The Maysles brothers wisely stay out of the way and I was quite amazed at how unobtrusive their camera was even when the sales were in relatively confined rooms.
Overall this is a rather depressing film that could have had more in the way of insight but does well to stand back and just observe. Modern documentaries often lose that so in a way it was refreshing not to have talking heads throughout the footage. Could have been more then but the cold look at the sales business, the sellers and the potential buyers is well done and makes for engaging if rather downbeat entertainment.
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