Written and directed by Steve Herold, co-written by James L. Palmer, Stanley Grimp, a door-to-door umbrella salesman, attempts to make a sale, avoid his alimony-hungry Ex and reconcile how his life turned out this way. Starring: Kevin Kolack, Sabrina Gennarino, Robert Casiello, Ronelle Thomas, Claudia de Candia, Damian Georgiev and Colette Nixon.
It’s very clear from the visual style, heavily retro score and costuming, before you even get to the actual story, that Death of an Umbrella Salesman is aiming at crashing the 1950s into today’s world. Styling out Stanley (Kolack) in the typical suit, tie and hat, exploring his adventures in monochrome and fitting into a slapstick meets situational comedy all matches squarely with the era. Its story also brings the past into the present with door-to-door sales, which is where its problems arise. With the appearance of delivery drones, it’s clearly supposed to be close to today, so focusing on that particular job becoming obsolete is a few years too late. The result of that is the story ironically feels outdated, and it’s hard to build up much of a sympathy for Stanley when today’s society is actually better off without cold calling strangers appearing in your doorway.
There also isn’t a huge amount of charisma or personality to dive into, the majority of his persona is made up by his hapless and fairly pathetic antics. Other than throwing in an ex-wife, there isn’t really anything to learn about him and he doesn’t feel particularly individual, there’s some generic male qualities to him. Using that black and white visual then doesn’t help as it’s a restriction on bringing through more personality in the aesthetic. The cinematography lacks a sharpness or texture from the use of monochrome and ends up feeling more dulled than adding character. The progression is also quite repetitive, it comes across as though it’s simply pushing the same point, until its final scene.
Kevin Kolack fits nicely into that 50s feel and the physical aspects of his performance similarly give that classic exaggerated quality. However, he doesn’t have a lot to work with, the key element of his personality purely being frustration and his pitiful situation and outlook. However, there is a great dose of personality added in with the appearance of Sabrina Gennarino’s Betsy, coming in as a ray on sunshine on a miserable day. She adds a much needed variety to the tone, it’s only a shame she doesn’t appear sooner.
Death of an Umbrella Salesman unfortunately can’t find its footing with this concept, it’s a mostly one-noted story which can’t quite bring out the laughs. The visual feels overly pulled back and while the intention makes clear sense, the end result simply doesn’t work well. It’s missing a larger variety to its scenes and a more complete, individual personality for Stanley, and with it also moving at quite a slow pace, it just can’t hold your attention strongly enough.