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Film / Shoeshine 1987

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Yep, it's Ben Stiller.

Shoeshine is a 1987 short film (ten minutes) directed by Tom Abrams.

A young commodities broker, played by 22-year-old Ben Stiller, boards the Staten Island Ferry on the way back home from trading in Manhattan. On the ferry is an avuncular shoeshine man, played by Ben Stiller's Real Life father, Jerry Stiller. After failing to get any other customers, the shoeshine man approaches the broker, who agrees to get his shoes shined. As the old man shines the young man's shoes, he imparts some advice about getting ahead in life. (It turns out that a good pair of shoes is important.)


  • Big Applesauce: A shoeshine man shines a young broker's shoes on the Staten Island Ferry.
  • Brutal Honesty: When a commuter rudely waves the shoeshine man off, the man answers "Same to you. Those shoes look like hell."
  • Casting Gag: A commuter wordlessly, and rudely, waves the shoeshine man away. He is listed in the credits as "Grouch".
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Namely, one transit of the Staten Island Ferry, or about 25 minutes.
  • Feet-First Introduction: Appropriately, some of the first shots in the film are tight focuses on the feet of various commuters boarding the ferry. Then the camera stops on one pair of shoes and pans up, introducing the young broker.
  • Foreshadowing: Ben Stiller was an unknown in 1987, but even then it wouldn't have been hard to guess the ending. After the young broker says that his father gave him the nice designer shoes and the nice suit, the shoeshine man says that, oh, he has a son, and his son happens to be a broker, and he gave his son nice shoes and a suit.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: After the eccentric shoeshine man says that William Shakespeare was big on shining shoes too, the broker says that he must be "sort of a solemate?"
  • Minimalist Cast: The broker, the shoeshine man, a mother and daughter, and the rude commuter who waves the shoeshine man away.
  • Nameless Narrative: No names given in the short.
  • The Reveal: The shoeshine man and the young broker are father and son. As the ferry pulls in the father suggests that his son come over for dinner.
  • Serious Business: Shoes and shoeshines, as the shoeshine man says to the broker when putting on the hard sell.
    Shoeshine man: A good-looking pair of well-shined shoes can be an invaluable asset to the businessman of today.
  • Shoe Shine, Mister?: A relatively uncommon version of this trope, with an adult shining shoes.