Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
The other day I was discussing salespeople with a friend and we determined that nobody likes being sold anything. Coincidental, then, that I saw Glengarry Glen Ross that night, as the film seems to support our hypothesis, but it adds another dimension to it: the salespeople themselves may not necessarily even like selling anything. In fact, the men in this movie are selling for survival; if they don't sell, they don't eat.
Near the beginning of the film, a man from the downtown office (Alec Baldwin) offers encouragement to three salesmen who aren't meeting their quotas by way of verbal abuse. First prize is a brand new Cadillac, second prize is a set of steak knives, and third prize is the door: you're fired. The men are selling real estate, using the weak leads handed down to them from above. There is Shelley Levene (Jack Lemmon), nicknamed The Machine for his past sales record, who has hit a wall in his career and can't seem to close any more sales. He desperately needs to keep his job to pay medical bills for his wife. Dave Moss (Ed Harris) is fed up with all of the bureaucracy, and doesn't feel people should be treated this way--and they shouldn't. George Aaronow (Alan Arkin) isn't the sharpest tool in the drawer, and tends to be swayed by his colleagues.
All three of these men are jealous of the only guy making any sales lately, Ricky Roma (Al Pacino). Dave is convinced that the rest of them would be doing just as well if they were getting the good leads that he is, but according to their by-the-book company-pleasing manager John Williamson (Kevin Spacey), only closers are worthy of the good leads--the Glengarry leads. Dave comes up with a plan to break into the office, steal the leads, and sell them to the competitor across the street, and tries to convince George to do the dirty work, and as a reward, he can take a cut of the pay and have a job with the competitor. We don't see the actual robbery, though--only the aftermath--and it's not clear who exactly did what. Everyone's got their motives, but who had the guts to do it?
Glengarry Glen Ross was written by David Mamet based on his stage play of the same name, and it must have been an actor's paradise. There are no special effects, hardly any sets at all, and some fantastic dialogue, which flows with the cadence that only Mamet can produce. Nobody else can write profanity with such poetry. Director James Foley doesn't intrude on his actors, which is the perfect way to deal with this talk-heavy picture. The acting is excellent all around, especially by screen legend Jack Lemmon, though nobody is overshadowed by anybody else.
The only fault I found with the film was the abrupt ending, but to go into any more detail would be a crime against anybody who hasn't seen the film. The subject matter is fascinating, as most of us have only seen salesmen when they're being phonies. Here they are given personalities, and are struggling with not only their jobs, but with their lives, and they live in such a sheltered world that they can't even see the opportunities that might be available outside of this bubble. It's a really foolish idea to steal from the place you have to go to every day, but if you don't know any better, it makes perfect sense.
May 17, 2005