Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) — Always be quotable

“You can’t play in the man’s game, you can’t close them? Then go home and tell your wife your troubles. Because only one thing counts in this life: get them to sign on the line which is dotted.”

Drew’s rating: PoolMan, put that coffee down. Coffee is for reviewers.

Drew’s review: Are you, by any chance, a salesperson? I’m not. A close friend of mine is, though – we’re the same age, same height, same education, same manner of speaking, similar upbringings. He’s got better hair, I’m a little thinner… but the point is, when we’re out at a bar together, you won’t find us vastly different to interact with. (Unless you’re female, in which case he’s the one who’s still allowed to hit on you.)

What I’m getting at is this: he possesses one thing I lack, and that is the drive to sell. It’s not competitiveness, it’s not courage… it’s simply the conviction to introduce yourself to a complete stranger and know that no matter who he is or what he does, he needs what you’re offering and will shell out hard-earned cash for it by the time you finish talking. And it’s exactly that conviction that concerns the characters of Glengarry Glen Ross.

In the aggressive, cutthroat game of real estate, Shelley (Jack Lemmon), George (Alan Arkin), and Moss (Ed Harris) are scrubs, the guys who haven’t closed a sale comparable to office hotshot Ricky Roma (Al Pacino) in years. All of them have sob stories, but the new edict from corporate, made crystal clear by “motivational” speaker Blake (Alec Baldwin), is this: the bottom two closers at the end of the month are out of here, history, don’t let the door hit you on the way out, pal. Now it’s a mad scramble to Always Be Closing; but when the office is robbed overnight and the valuable Glengarry leads sold to a competitor, the eye of suspicion falls heavy on those same losers.

But who did it, and is he enough of a salesman to talk his way out of it? Ah, now that’s the question.

Glengarry Glen Ross is not a visually rich feast for the eyes or a grand unfolding epic… it’s a tight, taut film about men. What drives them, what frightens them, how do they react when crammed into a too-small office or backed into a corner? And in that context, it’s about as effective of a movie as you’ll ever see. I’m usually not one to notice little things like acting, but man, the entire cast is just outstanding. If, like me, you automatically envision Jack Lemmon playing straight man to Walter Matthau’s crotchety antics, this movie will change your mind immediately, as he instills Shelley Levene with both heartbreaking sadness and weasely desperation by turns.

Harris and Arkin are a great one-two act as the bumbling loser and the defensive, pissed-off rebel. Pacino is Pacino, oozing his unique blend of charisma and sliminess, and Alec Baldwin turns in the greatest performance of his career, period – I refuse to hear otherwise. It’s just one scene, but he completely owns the room in such a dominant way, as if it’s simply his right. Meanwhile, Kevin Spacey initially seems overshadowed by his employees as manager Williamson, but wait until the movie’s over before judging him. All in all, it’s no surprise that Lemmon called it the most talented ensemble he ever worked with.

A movie like this lives or dies by its actors, but that’s not to diminish the other critical elements. It’s one of the best stage-to-film adaptations I’ve ever seen, with full credit due to David Mamet for both works – the movie flows along briskly and never feels padded out. Like I said, there’s not much in the way of scenery, but the constant rain and claustrophobic office effectively convey the impression of weary, beaten-down men in uncomfortable circumstances. The language is coarse and not for young ears, but you never once question that it’s exactly what men in this situation really sound like. As for the soundtrack, it’s mostly background jazzy fare, though the constant clatter of trains going past is an excellent stylistic touch.

I’m probably not selling Glen Ross very well… no surprise, given what I told you about myself. And if my friend had been an English major, maybe he could have done a better job convincing you why you really need to see it. But as it stands, I can merely tell you this: it is an excellent movie. It’s hilarious without being particularly funny, and while it’s not cheery, it certainly is compelling. If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to sell real estate (hint: a delicate portion of the anatomy coated in a weighty metal) and you don’t mind language just this side of a Kevin Smith movie, know that Glengarry Glen Ross is out there. The only question is, are you man (or woman) enough to take it? Because if you don’t, I got no sympathy for ya, pal.

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