THE BIG KAHUNA
by Melissa B. Cummings
a salesman takes a truly unique personality. The sheer drive and determination
in the face of relentless rejection that is required is incredible.
For those that hear the calling, the sales profession is like a religion.
Salesmen's lives are devoted to making us believe we need what they're
selling, and they'll use whatever means necessary to convince us. It
is a frustrating and draining task, and only the strongest survive.
This is the idea behind THE BIG KAHUNA, a film written by Roger
Rueff, based on his play "Hospitality Suite." The story focuses on three
salesman: old-pros Larry (Kevin Spacey) and Phil (Danny DeVito), and
a newcomer, Bob (Peter Facinelli, who I think was formed by splicing
DNA from Tom Cruise and Christian Bale) who are sent by their Chicago-based
industrial lubricants company to attend a convention in Witchita, Kansas.
Their goal is to meet Dick Fuller, an important potential client (a.k.a.
"The Big Kahuna"), at their hospitality suite and convince him to do
business with their company. The problem: they don't know what he looks
like. The event goes off without a hitch, save for the fact that The
Big Kahuna is nowhere to be found. As a dejected Larry and Phil discuss
the consequences, Bob discovers that indeed Mr. Fuller had been there
and had spent the night talking to him at the bar. Delighted by this,
Phil and Larry send Bob off to find Mr. Fuller and give him their sales
pitch. Unfortunately, rather than discuss business with Mr. Fuller,
Bob chooses his own topic of conversation, breaking one of the cardinal
rules of salesmanship.
The plot, however, is secondary in The Big Kahuna. The film is
a character study, and a good one at that. Each character's personal
beliefs, desires and fears are displayed without a hint of deception.
Like most films based on plays, there is much more talk than action.
But unlike some, the dialogue in The Big Kahuna does not seem
at all forced or pretentious. Every line is believable. Like another
film based on a play about salesmen, (Devid Mamet's great Glengarry
Glen Ross), the characters are undeniably real, but The Big
Kahuna is even less plot-driven than GGR. This could potentially
be a problem were it not for such an amazing cast. Kevin Spacey once
again proves himself one of the finest actors alive. From him, a look,
a gesture, a voice inflection, gives his character more personality
than any words that come out of his mouth. Danny DeVito is impressive
as a man who has been through hell and back and now is simply looking
for peace and validation. And Peter Facinelli has an earnest innocence
about him that works perfectly.
In converting the play to a movie, the filmmakers seem to tack on a
slightly more trite ending than was necessary. The use of Baz Luhrmann's
"Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)" as the closing music makes it
feel even more so, and also serves to date the film. But this is one
of the picture's few flaws. Overall, The Big Kahuna is a very