The Big Kahuna

Director: John Swanbeck
Screenwriters: Roger Rueff

Institute History

  • 2000 Sundance Film Festival


In highly acclaimed plays like Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman and David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross, the American theatre has thrown a spotlight on the complex persona of the salesman and the intricacies of the high-pressure games he plays and the subworlds he inhabits. This tradition continues in The Big Kahuna, the filmed version of Roger Rueff's play, Hospitality Suite, a small-scale, yet effective and engaging, drama about men at different points in their lives struggling to find balance and gratification. Kevin Spacey heads an extremely talented trio of actors—the other two are Danny DeVito and Peter Facinelli—who turn a fresh and uncaricatured eye on characters who could have easily been well-worn stereotypes and extract emotional power and payoff from a familiar story line.

In a nondescript hotel room that doubles as the lounge/salesroom until they land the "big account" that will revitalize their company, Phil, a burned-out fifty-something account executive; Bob, a fresh-faced researcher, newly married and on his first business trip; and the aggressive, fast-talking, and still madly aspiring Larry argue, confront, and confide over the course of the afternoon and evening. Their subjects are everything from business to sex to the ultimate purpose of life.

Building to a gentle, almost-restrained resolution, which is all the more potent, Kahuna's distincitiveness lies in a series of narrative surprises and dialogue that focuses on moral and personal choice rather than grand revelations. Marvelously translated from the stage by director Swanbeck adn actor/producer Spacey, The Big Kahuna illustrates the fine possibilities in adapting plays to film.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details


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