Glengarry Glen Ross

OK, so it doesn’t take a salesman to say that Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) is a wonderful picture. It receives that exact kind of verbally old-school praise because it’s a classically good movie—based on a David Mamet play (1984), for which he won the Pulitzer and a Tony.

Salesmen are trying to peddle land deals. Yeah, they’re crooked, but it’s totally the chain of yelling with the true enemies offstage, only discussed with disdain or deference, like a little brother threatening to summon mom. The group desires leads for new clients. Overnight the office is burgled, and there’s a mystery. But I’m all 90s cynic, like “big whoop,” “plot schmot” and all that.

The movie is dialogue, spans about fifteen hours and only has men. (I mean, really, women say nothing in person, except for one Asian hostess making a throwaway comment about the paucity of diners in the restaurant). But two of the men, the most sympathetic (Jack Lemmon’s eyes!), are motivated by women, one a sick daughter, the other a smart wife.

Alec Baldwin gives one speech. Ed Harris does a decent job, with Alan Arkin playing off of him (in like a you think he [Arkin] is an idiot kind of way), until it is Arkin’s time to actually become a 3D character. Kevin Spacey was totally detestable: his character was snide, sure, but man I think anyone could do that role too, but it is Kevin Spacey, sharing the screen with 5 other A-listers. Maybe there just wasn’t the room, with Lemmon (my goodness, he’s really something!) and Pacino.

Thankfully, the force of Pacino was tempered. His character was seen early, but only referred to during the second act, not seen. Then he shows up with an absolutely wonderful monologue, which begins, “All train compartments smell vaguely of shit.” He gets the other sympathetic (practically mute because totally rapt with the Pac-man) character to sign a deal with the monologue; it’s really a mystifying and hypnotic piece of work, the dialogue and delivery.

GGR is short and filled with cursing—you just wish it were longer.

Two of the characters suffer so completely (the two men moved by the women in their families) in an office. Lemmon and Pacino were perfectly casted. And then there’s this terribly sad dude who shows up, the one to whom Pacino sold, playing this incredibly timid and self-conscious and worried husband who’s been tricked into making a purchase, and he cannot even trust himself (but doesn’t listen to himself about it, rather his wife [“my wife told me not to talk to you”]; he just wants to please—it is so sad!). But he was perfect, because hardly any man in Hollywood, especially now that PSH is gone, would open himself like Jonathan Pryce did. He just laid himself bare, but still, Lemmon eclipsed him.

There is something here though with movie stars. Spacey and Baldwin played assholes, and I cannot imagine them doing anything else. Arkin and Harris played sufficiently, bending themselves to the script, earning some credibility. Lemmon and Pacino stole their scenes—the best scene has them together. That’s all understandable and expected. And those are six actors whose careers have had incredible longevities, but Pryce, man that guy did well, because he’s a bit guy. He was able to open himself up because the audience didn’t need anything from him that was based on expectation. But also he’s a great actor. And I am tempted now to eulogize, to write some elegiac jeremiad about the loss of PSH, but we all feel it, I know.