Saturday, September 24, 2011

#414. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

Directed By: James Foley

Starring: Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin

Tag line: "Lie. Cheat. Steal. All In A Day's Work"

Trivia:  Co-star Jack Lemmon said the cast was the greatest acting ensemble he had ever been part of

Glengarry Glen Ross is a movie about salesmen. More to the point, it’s about real estate salesmen. Sounds pretty boring, right? Well, it's far from that. In fact, Glengarry Glen Ross is an electrifying film. Based on a David Mamet stage play, the dialogue always sizzles, sometimes smolders, and usually burns whoever might be on the receiving end of it. With a tense script and a cast to die for, Glengarry Glen Ross is more than a film about salesmen; it’s a blistering expose of an entire profession. 

After getting a tongue lashing from a corporate big shot named Blake (Alec Baldwin), an entire office of under-performing Real Estate salesmen starts lying, cheating and stealing in the hopes of keeping their jobs. Shelley Levene (Jack Lemmon), the senior salesman, has been in a personal rut for months, a slump further complicated by the fact his daughter is in the hospital. Dave Moss (Ed Harris) complains, often loudly, that the sales leads they’re given are old, and demands that Branch Manager John Williamson (Kevin Spacey) turn over a few of the newly arrived Glengarry leads so they can all start selling again. Unfortunately, headquarters has ordered that the Glengarry leads be given only to the best salesmen, and in this particular office that happens to be Ricky Roma (Al Pacino), a go-getter who thrives on the thrill of the sale. Each of these men have been around the block enough times to realize the Glengarry leads are their only hope for a return to prosperity, and a few are ready to do whatever it takes to get their hands on them. 

As I said, the dialogue in Glengarry Glen Ross sizzles, but the scene with Alec Baldwin’s Blake, a corporate representative sent in by the higher-ups to throw a scare into the slacking salesmen, is a marvel to behold. If the rest of the film sizzles, then his sequence is white hot. Claiming to be there on a 'mission of mercy', Blake comes in like a lion, then goes out like a damned Tyrannosaurs Rex. While still introducing himself to the group, he pauses to chastise Shelley, who’s gotten out of his chair to pour himself a cup of coffee. “Put that coffee down!” Blake shouts, shocking Shelley to the point that he can't even move. “Coffee is for closers only”. Blake, the top salesman at the company for years running, then launches into a tirade of profanity-laden insults that would make a Marine blush. If nothing else, it’s certainly the most abusive business meeting ever captured on film. In his brief appearance, Alec Baldwin sends a surge of energy coursing through the film. You really have to see it to believe it. 

If I took one thing away from Glengarry Glen Ross, it’s that I would never make it as a salesman. In fact, based on this film, I can’t imagine a worse profession. Put in a position day in and day out where it’s you or them, pushing yourself on honest, hard-working people to sell them something they just don’t need, and opening yourself up to all sorts of abuse and rejection in the process? No, thank you. I realize most sales jobs aren’t as brutal as what we see in Glengarry Glen Ross, but even if this movie's only 10% accurate, it looks like a hell of a way to make a living.

Besides, I’d hate to run into Blake by the water cooler.


nnn said...

Yes, the dialogue does sizzle - that one speech Alec Baldwin gives is amazing.

DVD Infatuation said...

Thanks for stopping by, and for the comment.

As great as everyone is in this film, Baldwin steals the show with his speech. It's incredible!

nnn said...

Yes, he does. Have you seen this? Hahaha

DVD Infatuation said...

I have seen that before. VERY funny! Thanks for posting it!

Unknown said...

Yeah, that Baldwin monologue is easily the best moment in the film and, undoubtedly, what is most well known about the film. However, I think the sleeper for the best performance comes from Lemmon when he is talking on the pay phone. It is desperation and despair at its most realized cinematically.

DVD Infatuation said...

@Travis: YES! That scene with Lemmon in the phone booth is excellent. You can really feel his desperation.

Thanks for the comment, and my apologies for the late reply.

John said...

Aside from Baldwin's scene (which he reprised in an SNL sketch featuring Santa's workshop), I didn't care much for the film. As you suggested at the beginning, it might seem boring. Well, to me, it was. And I never understood the dependence of the salesmen on being given the leads. Why didn't they get off their duffs and get their own damn leads?