Posted on 8/04/13 06:38 PM
"It takes brass balls to sell real-estate"
Glengarry Glen Ross is an absolute powerhouse, filled to the brim with fantastic performances, witty dialogue, and an intensity rarely seen in lesser films. From the personality-reflective directing, to the endlessly quotable lines, to the magnetic screen presence of every actor, this film is an ensemble gold standard.
When the higher-ups send Blake (played to sheer, aggressive perfection by Alec Baldwin) down to their office for a motivational speech/verbal beat-down, the property salesmen at Mitch & Murray find themselves desperately looking to climb up their sales board, or lose their jobs. If they manage to sell they're current contracts, they'll be rewarded with the prestigious Glengarry leads. Each man takes to the news in a different way: Sheldon "The Machine" Levene (the ever-slick Jack Lemmon), an old hand, who hasn't had a big break in months, becomes quietly desperate, pulling every trick he has out, in an attempt to plea with his leads. Dave Moss (the ever-underrated Ed Harris), a brash, impulsive type, who leaves with the complacent, unassuming George Aaronow (Alan Arkin, the noticeable black sheep of the cast). While driving, Moss conspires to rob the office of the Glengarry leads, putting Aaronow in a tough position. Finally, there is Ricky Roma (the legend that is Al Pacino), a hot-shot that isn't present for the revelation, as he is too busy wooing a client with his put-on philosophies, and slick charm. On top of that fantastic foursome, there is there young manager, John Williamson (Kevin Spacey, before either of his Oscar wins), the smarmy superior, who has the Glengarry leads. As the night, and following morning progress, we are treated to the different character arcs, relations, and revelations. Various characters reveal more about themselves, and the situation, through the brilliant, biting screenplay.
Positives: So many. The film is dominated by five fantastic lead actors, each getting enough development, and moments to remain in the viewers minds, long after seeing the film. Al Pacino's portrayal of Ricky, as a slick, smooth salesman who can wrap any client around his finger, masks a desperation, that comes out when he finds himself in a corner. This multifaceted portrayal owes it's debt to the fantastic screenplay, and Pacino's absorption into the role. Then there is Moss. Ed Harris was one of the lesser well-known guys in the film, but he absolutely dominates every time he speaks. His brash, loudmouth persona serve to highlight the times where he can't walk the walk, or is unable to follow up a spur-of-the-moment comment, and ends up getting destroyed by the likes of Blake. To contrast the big-mouthed Moss, we have the reserved, nervous Aaronow, who is unable to stand on his own two feet, and is taken in by Moss' smooth-talking. Arkin's portrayal of Aaronow is probably the least note-worthy performance in the film, but it is still an absolute masterclass, putting many actors today to shame. Moving onto the two supporting characters, we have Williamson, played by the at-the-time upcoming talent Kevin Spacey. Williamson is snide, bitter, and resentful of his employees, as they think themselves more experienced than him, after he left them behind for his current position. This bitterness comes out when he gets the Glengarry leads, and is able to milk the desperation of Sheldon, and the viewer can just feel the venom in their exchanges. Then there's Blake. Blake is an icon to many, both as a movie character, and as a business model. The rapidfire monologues, and searing verbal beatdown of the salesmen is as iconic as anything in cinema. Alec Baldwin is absolute perfection as Blake, playing him as a lecherous, unlikable character that has enough valid points (and intense charisma), to endear himself to the viewer. Finally, there is Jack Lemmon, as Sheldon "The Machine" Levene. I didn't expect it, but Lemmon just stole the show. His delivery, characterisation, from the voice, to the expressions, to the posture, everything was pitch-perfect. His desperation to save his job is nothing less than compelling, had me glued to every conversation he had, and certainly had me sympathising a lot more for him than any other character. With actors of this calibre, and a screenplay so brilliant to work off, anyone can see why it is so deserving of adoration.
Negatives: I actually find myself struggling to think of flaws. Having been based on a play, the film's narrative is a bit different from what you'd expect, and there is a much more noticeable lack of scenes and locations, with conversations serving for what a separate scene would be used for in more typical fashion. This lack of action can probably be seen as a flaw, as there are probably many who wouldn't take time to admire the brilliant unfolding of the tale. On top of that, if I were to bring up one, tiny (tiny) flaw that I have (and I'm being totally subjective here), it's that we didn't see quite enough of each character in the 100 minute running time. Pacino's Ricky Roma only becomes a major character in the second half, (where he absolutely eats every bit of dialogue he has). If he had more of a presence in the first half, this film would have an even higher standing in my mind than it does now. Also, Spacey's character, John Williamson, is not quite given enough development, in my eyes. He has a very obvious dislike for those in his office, but I never feel we are quite given enough of a reason for it (save for Roma and Levene throwing insults his way, which could have easily come about, even without a previous bitterness. I feel, if there had been a bit of exposition regarding his relationship with the rest of the cast, it might have made him a stronger character. George and Moss are somewhat the same, as they have smaller roles than Levene, but I still feel that they served there purpose in the film very well, and have no need to be extended. Of course, this is just me being greedy. This film is still an absolute masterpiece, with superb direction, acting, and writing. If it were up to me, I would have the film go on that little bit longer, just so I could see the electricity of these characters, and these actors, that little bit more.
In closing, you don't need to have a keen knowledge of real-estate to get into Glengarry Glen Ross (I know I don't). If you are in any way a fan of good writing, good directing, and above all, phenomenal acting, then you owe it to yourself to see this movie. I f you even consider yourself a fan of cinema, then you won't be making the wrong choice in seeing Glengarry Glen Ross. It serves as a reminder that the world is cruel place, that people will do desperate things when sufficiently motivated, and that life can be as cut throat as any job or business. Again, if you consider yourself a fan of cinema, or you simply like seeing actors give a masterclass in their profession, Glengarry Glen Ross will not disappoint.
Final Grade: A