A moderately appealing comedy, “Suits” pokes fun at the world of advertising execs. While it’s hardly as scathing or as blisteringly funny as the 1989 satire “How to Get Ahead in Advertising,” new item is entertaining enough to warrant continued festival attention and eventual arthouse play.
Story revolves around Ken Tuttle (Randy Pearlstein), a young copywriter at Cranston & Co., a New York agency run by advertising honcho Tom Cranston (a well-cast Robert Klein). Disheartened by the prospect of using his literature degree to sell deodorant, Ken shares his cynical, detached outlook with his girlfriend Anita (Ingrid Rogers) and fellow creatives, including his brilliant but embittered mentor, creative director George Parkyn (Tony Hendra).
United Standard, one of Cranston’s biggest clients, is dismayed that sales of its deodorant “Smell No Mo’ ” are off. Threatening to terminate their long-term association, United Standard offers the agency one last chance to come up with an innovative campaign for a new product.
But it’s a race against time: The hip rival agency Hoffman & Partners is working on its own campaign for the same product.
The product, as it turns out, is a new-fangled sanitary napkin made of “Vorcan,” a substance having thousands of tiny air holes. Vorcan, decides Hoffman’s creative team, will usher in nothing short of a female revolution, right up there with the right to vote and the Pill. Hoffman concocts a pretentious but handsome, high-gloss campaign set to music by the pop group Air Supply (their tagline: “Vorcan: your own personal air supply”). Meanwhile, Cranston’s team has come up dry, and Tuttle is so discouraged by his creative vacuum that he can’t perform in bed.
When Parkyn is fired for insubordination, the insolent Tuttle is sure he’s next. But some clever thinking by Anita and 11th-hour maneuvers help the team come up with a campaign of their own. While it lacks Hoffman’s glossy appeal, the earthy Cranston tagline “The pad ain’t bad” has its own defenders. United Standard’s CEO must choose between the two pitches; smartly, writer-director Eric Weber sustains interest by making the competition look like a dead heat.
The film’s best moments are those that lampoon the naive account execs, the suits who can’t tell a creative idea from a tacky tabloid headline. Long on sartorial splendor and short on imagination, the suits are the movers and shakers who purport to shape consumer tastes.
Those same suits gather to salivate behind a two-way mirror as a focus group of teenage girls relate their experiences with the Vorcan sanitary napkin. Overcrowding the room, the execs precipitate an embarrassing incident. That true story, say the production notes, is what inspired Weber to write this film back in the ’80s when he was the successful creative director behind the Molson and Dr Pepper campaigns. Apocryphal or not, the scene provides one of the film’s funniest bits.
Nothing in “Suits” is quite as memorable as Weber’s “Be a Pepper” jingle, but he does get off some inspired commentary on our capitalist culture. Acting and technical elements are competent all around.