I am sure that every one of us have their own gaps in their cinema viewings. So do I, though for a film blogger, they are much more wider. Since I started mingling in the blogosphere, these gaps have become even wider. However, some times there are some titles that are thrown around so often in the mix and garner such a hyperbolic praise from almost everyone who talks about them, you almost feel guilty for not having seen them. At least I do. One such name is Glengarry Glen Ross(1992). I know a bunch of people you kinda worship this movie, every single thing about this movie - screenplay, acting, dialogue, direction, pretty much everything. I have been meaning to watch for quite a while for all these reasons and I finally got to see this, thanks to Netflix. Going into a film that you have heard such a praise about can result in only two things, you either love this film just as much as everyone else seems to or it falls completely flat on its face making you wonder what do people really see in it. That's what happened with Citizen Kane(1950) for me. Thankfully, Glengarry Glen Ross falls into the former category and not later.
Based on a Pulitzer prize winning play by David Mamet himself, it is set in a Chicago real-estate office where four salesmen - Ricky Roma, Shelley Levene, David Moss and George Aaronow are fighting for their lives. In a world of cut-throat competition, their firm is putting an added pressure on them to do better. In probably one of the best, certainly the most explosive scenes in film, Blake, an executive officer of Mitch and Marshall, their parent company, announces a sales game where winner will win a Cadillac El Dorado, second prize is Stake knives and third prize is the guy will be fired. Blake is a kind of a guy who does not believing in cajoling his employees to make them work better. He will rather fire your ass up and watch you go up into the sky. If you come up with flying colors, you win and if you go and blast yourself to pieces, well tough luck. Roma is on the streak lately. So, this so called contest doesn't bother him much. But for the other three, it spells impending doom on the horizon. To make the matters worse, they are not getting better leads until they close their deals because Leads are for CLOSERS. I have no idea about the sales business and hence I do not know what leads are. But if you look at any one of them, flipping like fish out of water for good leads, I got pretty good idea that it is something very important. But it is a classic catch-22 - if you don't close the deals, you can't have the good leads and if you don't have the good leads, you are just beating the dead horse. Insulted by Blake and dejected by the inferior leads they have, Levine, Moss and Aaronow are in a rather precarious position. In this condition with their backs pressed against the wall, Moss comes up with an idea of stealing the new Glengarry leads from their boss Williamson's office and selling them to their competitor across the street, Jerry Graff, who will not only pay them for these leads but will also give them a job and then they can make more money selling with those leads.
Next morning, it turns out that someone actually did rob their office and among other things, stole the leads they all wanted so much. However, the question is Who did ? When everyone arrives next day, they are greeted by Police investigating the robbery. Roma is the one most irritated since he believes that this robbery will cost him an El Dorado that he worked very hard for. When Levine enters with a news of big sale he closed last night that would put him right into the contention for the big prize, we are set for yet another long and explosive scene right till the end. Long scenes like this is the real test of Mamet's screenplay. But he packs them to the brim with amazing dialogues, keeps moving the story forward and is backed up superbly by the actors that makes you feel like you are missing something even if you miss a single dialogue. He hardly covers 24 hours in time spanned over couple of days but he successfully establishes that every single one of these salesman is ready to do anything - legal or illegal - to make that sale of even an undesirable piece of land to an unwilling customer including lying, flattery, bribing, threats, intimidation and even burglary. Mamet also pulls something that Hitchcock made famous with Psycho(1960) called McGuffin where a whole plot is built around something that doesn't really play much big role in plot. $40,000 that Marion steals was McGuffin in Psycho, here it is the threat of being fired because of slump in your performance. To tell you the truth, this is through and through Actor's movie and with such a great screenplay by Mamet, director James Foley seems to be taking a little back seat here but there is no denying that he does his job well despite there being nothing peculiarly flashy about it.
I always used to go to The Departed(2006) whenever someone would ask me about an ensemble cast. There is no denying that with the likes of Jack Nicholson, Leonardo Di Caprio, Matt Demon, Mark Wahlberg and even Martin Sheen with Alec Baldwin The Departed makes up for an amazing ensemble with an equally explosive screenplay. But it might just have met his equal in Glengarry Glen Ross, if not better. There are so many great actors doing equally great job here that I swear I would not have cared even if they kept on talking absolute garbage. Starting with Jack Lemmon as Shelley Levene who just might have got role of his career towards the very end of his career. As an aging salesman he is past his glory days but he never misses a chance to brag about it. There are more shades to his character than any other and Jack Lemmon owns every single one of them. Al Pacino plays Ricky Roma - the latest sensation, the top dog, the man with a streak. Except for the very first scene, he is almost absent for the first half but boy, does he return with a vengeance in second. The way he tries to handle his client James Lingsk trying to cancel out the deal they finalized last night is real piece of work. Dave moss has big mouth and even bigger dreams and plans. He is the one who complains the most, resents his executives the most and most importantly comes up with the plan to steal those leads - Ed Harris in yet another notable performance. There is really nothing much that stands out for Aaronow. In contrast to others, he has very little fire in him, he lacks confidence and hope and self-esteem and all he does for most of the times is half heartedly agrees with everything but Alan Arkin makes it worth it. Kevin Spacey is their boss John Williamson. He is much more of a villain who wouldn't give them the leads they so badly need and more often than not ends up on the receiving end. But even then, he gets to throw that last punch on Levene and pack his bags for him. Even Alec Baldwin comes in for a single scene but that is easily the best scene of the whole movie and leaves us with some of the brilliant lines.
I haven't seen much of Mamet's work. If i remember correctly, I have not seen a single movie he directed but I have seen a couple of movie he wrote - The Verdict(1982), which I loved for Sidney Lumet's Direction and Paul Newman and The Untouchables(1987), which I did not care for for the same reasons, Director - He always goes a bit too over the top for me and I can never get over that and Kevin Costner - I can never stand this man outside of JFK(1991). But I would be lying if I don't acknowledge that both this movies have solid screenplays. If Glengarry Glen Ross is any indication, I will certainly look forward to more of his work.
Rating(out of 5):