Candyman: The David Klein Story, 2010.
Directed by Costa Botes.
A biopic charting the rise and fall of the inventor of Jelly Belly jelly beans.
Covering the rise and fall of Jelly Belly inventor David Klein, Candyman is a true underdog story with a not-so-happy ending. In all, Candyman is an enjoyable view regardless of its length-padding techniques. It was the winner of the Director’s Choice Award at the 2010 Rincon International Film Festival and was part of the official selection at SlamDance and HotDocs.
The film starts by following Klein’s early days as a businessman. Having graduated top of his UCLA class, Klein decided not to follow the family-anticipated legal career route and instead chased his dream of making candy. Taking the initial concept of the Jelly Bean, Klein adapted it to be less waxy, more upmarket and, vitally, gave it many different flavours. His success was quick, despite the original retail price of $2 per pound being drastically high for the day. Klein’s success was due largely to him being a marketing whizz: he faked customers for interviews; dressed liked some sort of bizarre clown that you would only see on American Idol for The Mike Douglas Show, and even wore his birthday suit in a bath full of Jelly Bellies.
David Klein’s Jelly Belly business was booming. Demand was so high that there was a backlog of orders that would take a year to fulfil. But, as is often the case with success, troubled times loomed for Klein. It was not his business that would cause him pain, but himself. For this candy-eyed genius was one of the few great businessmen with a heart of gold. Much like his desire to give away ice cream to children on his birthday, Klein soon gave away his business and his fortune for $4.8 million - what seems like a bean-sized amount compared to the $160,000,000 a year it is worth now. And why? Because he didn’t want to fight with the people he went in to business with a few years earlier. But, as David put is, “What is money?” Director Costa Botes nicely portrays that Klein is not so bothered about the money as he is about signing away what affectively was his baby – the dream that he once had and then made true – so that someone else could raise it.
The natural tension that arises from being a businessman with a heart bigger than his head is shown beautifully in Botes’ film. David wanted greatly to succeed, but, more than this, he never wanted to hurt or offend anyone else. He wanted everyone else to succeed even if it meant he wouldn’t. Botes makes you feel for Klein. You genuinely do not want to buy another Jelly Belly after watching this film – helped, of course, by the fact that the Jelly Belly Candy Company, as it is now known, does not even acknowledge its inventor in its official history. The tension between father and son is a constant undertone in the film, as David’s son, Bert, is clearly proud of his father, even if a little bitter.
The film throws in a number of interesting tidbits: Jelly Bellies were the candy of choice for President Ronal Reagan; Klein also invented a chocolate shaped like a poo (brilliantly entitled “Crappé”), and Klein has been known as the real life Willy Wonka. But it is clear that padding techniques do occur around the half way mark and the pacing of the film would be helped if these weren’t present.
As the film's producer Bert Klein puts it, Candyman is “The Social Network with candy.” Well, that’s close, I suppose. Only we care about the protagonist, who is not left with billions of dollars but, instead, with nothing. Of course, all the while we care about David Klein, we must wonder if he is a marketing genius with a kind heart, or just plain stupid to give away his multi-million dollar company (this not helped by the revelation near the end of the film that Klein gave away another great candy idea for a mere $1). My vote is with the former. Either way, Candyman is a worthwhile watch. Just realise you won’t be so supportive of the Jelly Belly franchise after viewing!
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