I love when I am unexpectedly blown away by a movie. That’s exactly that happened when I saw Glengarry Glen Ross yesterday. Simply put everything was possibly the best in it.
I have to start with the actors as they were the most visible aspect of the movie. It was a star powered movie. These stars did not raise to stardom because the celebrity industry, they became stars because of their acting talents. Every single man (yes they were all men) was superb, I couldn’t take my eyes of them as they were so much in tune with their roles. Each salesman filled out a different kind of stereotype 100%.
- Al Pacino was the smartly dressed slick bastard, who wants to seem compassionate while would sell his own mother for the right amount of bucks.
- Jack Lemmon, the “machine”, who did everything to close a deal. He was a smooth talker with gazillion tricks behind his sleazy sleeve gained through decades of experience.
- Alec Baldwin, coming from the corporate headquarters, who believed in money and nothing else. He focused on it in his inhuman and cruel speech, action and even the car he drove.
- Alan Arkin supposedly had a bad month, but he seemed more generally inept. He couldn’t even finish a sentence, not to mention a deal. He was an eternal underdog, compared to whom everybody was a better salesman.
- Ed Harris, the aggressive guy, whose aggression was misguided. His corruption extended to corrupting others, while saving his own skin.
- Kevin Spacey, the unrespected boss of the branch, who had no less dirty spots on his conscious than the others. He tried to keep the branch running against the will of his subordinates.
- Jonathan Pryce, the soft-spoken hesitant client who hardened only under spousal pressure. When put in a hard spot between the wills of two people he crumbled.
Juan Ruiz Anchía’s camerawork was also exquisite. Every scene was carefully composed, the mise-en-scenes were designed with always at least one eye putting a person or two deliberately in the front or the back. It was evident that there was always some thinking behind the positioning of people and major objects too. Switching them was also an exciting process to watch. In the most dramatic scene the camera kept moving between 4 shouting people, while making sure that at least 2 non-shouting person remained visible. I had to rewind that scene to understand the connection between the people, to see who were the targets and who were the active participants. The swirling notion I got was reminiscent of what the people in the shouting match must have felt.
None of the above would have mattered with a bad script. But David Mamet was given a chance to convert his own play to a screenplay and it worked. He placed a drama in an ordinary office, where one would really expect it. In real life, of course, lots of drama is happening every day in offices, but they are rarely depicted. Mamet did a great job sharing the tension in a desolate place that is almost surely destined to go out fashion and business.
This is truly a great movie, even though for my taste there was too much swearing in it. But it was all realistic given the circumstances.
IMDB’s summary: Times are tough in a New York real-estate office; the salesmen (Shelley Levene, Ricky Roma, Dave Moss, and George Aaronow) are given a strong incentive by Blake to succeed in a sales contest. The prizes? First prize is a Cadillac Eldorado, second prize is a set of steak knives, third prize is the sack! There is no room for losers in this dramatically masculine world; only “closers” will get the good sales leads. There is a lot of pressure to succeed, so a robbery is committed which has unforeseen consequences for all the characters.