Friday, 9 March 2007
GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS
Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) dir. James Foley, written by David Mamet
Starring; Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, Ed Harris, Kevin Spacey, Alan Arkin
“Glengarry Glen Ross” has achieved cult status since its release in 1992. It’s certainly one of the most quotable films of the 90’s – coincidentally released in the same year as the highly-quotable “Reservoir Dogs”. Who can forget the lines “coffee’s for closers,” ”…this watch costs more than your car”, “second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you're fired, “you drove a Hyundai to work, I drove an eighty thousand dollar BMW. That's my name”. In fact all of these lines are delivered in one cinema’s greatest speeches by Alec Baldwin (see the youtube link below).
“Glengarry Glen Ross” dramatizes a tumultuous 24 hours in the working lives of 4 real estate salesmen, played by an impressive ensemble of actors, Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin. Supporting them are Kevin Spacey, Jonathan Price and the aforementioned Alec Baldwin. It’s a rainy night and the salesmen are brought in for a meeting. They bitch and moan about their sales numbers and coyly discuss manipulating clients into buying their land. Soon they’re cut down to size by the boisterous “Blake” (Baldwin) a fast-talking uber-salesman from “the company,” Mitch & Murray. With verbal abuse and a boat load of expletives Blake tells them they have one week to bump up their sales figures or they’re fired. The top two stay, the bottom two get fired. It’s like a dirty shot of tequila, a punishing blow to their egos and it sends them reeling to make their sales.
They go away with their “leads”, a set of blue cue cards with a name and a phone number. Their job is to cold call their leads to buy land, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars – I couldn’t imagine a tougher sell. The desperation is palpable for Jack Lemmon’s character, the eldest and most senior, but also the most vulnerable. His desperate calls are pathetic and depressing. His visit to the home of one his clients is a classic scene. Lemmon (the film’s finest performance) uses all his old school sales techniques and literally puts his foot in the door in order make the sale. His attempt his impressive in its persistence and yet utterly depressing.
Al Pacino is the top dog of the salesmen and top man on the blackboard list. He plays his character like a mad dog – aggressive and relentless in his pursuit of his sales. His conversation with a drunk, emasculated businessman (Jonathan Pryce) is a masterful piece of manipulation. It’s more of a con than a sale (a Mamet trademark). When the office is robbed by an unknown perpetrator the salesmen’s ruthlessness and cruelty are amped up and turned on each other as they all become suspects.
The film is famous for Mamet’s rhymic dialogue. It’s a trademark of all his work. (Note, Mamet first wrote the story as a play, which won him a Pulitzer Prize in 1984) Actors lines quickly bounce off each other with pace. Fucks’ and ‘cocksuckers’ are liberally tossed in like adverbs. According to the IMDB the f-bomb is dropped 138 times (that’s 1.38 FPM – fucks per minute). This is the world Mamet lives and breathes – working class men fighting to make a living in an unaccommodating world of American capitalism.
“Glengarry Glen Ross” is a guy’s film, and it’s no doubt fun to hear Spacey get verbally shit upon by Jack Lemmon, or Al Pacino abuse Ed Harris, “let me buy you a pack of gum. I'll show you how to chew it,” but watch it from a cultural point of view. It’s the ultimate capitalist film - survival of the fittest without a safety net - “close or you hit the bricks – if not then you’re shining my shoes.” It’s the perfect mantra describing the Reaganist era in which Mamet’s play was originally written and still relevent today.
Buy it here: Glengarry Glen Ross