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by Dane Youssef

A Well-played, well-written look at the bottom rung on society--salesman. Real-estate, exactly.

Yes, it's a "photographed play." Like just about every other play adaptation to the big screen... but it's so well done, you don't care. Like "The Odd Couple" or... "Lost In Yonkers..."

The actors thankfully move outside the office a bit (outside the building, in cars, phone booths, restaurants... and at one point, over to someone's house)

This movie could have been called "Life of A Salesman." Men who dedicate their lives to selling real estate. Land and so forth. It's not as easy and as coast-worthy as it all seems.

God, what a racket. These people are all so cynical, bitter and desperate. They're claustrophobic and turning on each other. Their whole source of income and life rely on these little cards. "Leads." Little cards with names, numbers and addresses of people who want to buy land. But some of them are so old...

A red-hot salesman from downtown (Alec Baldwin, in a role written especially for him) comes down to motivate, drill and berate everyone into bringing their numbers up. When another salesman makes the mistake of protesting against all the abuse and calling Blake on his rant, Blake decides to put him in his place.

He flashes his watch. He shows off his car. "I made $970,000 last year. How much you make? Mitch & Murray asked me to come down. To help get the numbers up. As a favor. I told them that the real favor would be to take my advice and fire you. Because a loser is a loser."

Then Baldwin shows the 'Glengarry Glen' leads. He holds them and shows them off to the other salesman like he's holding the royal crown jewels. The hope diamond. The holiest of holy grails. Well, to these guys... they are. Baldwin remarks smugly, "These are the new leads. These are the Glengarry leads. To you, these are gold... and you don't get them. Why? Because to give them to you is just throwing them away." I like when Ed Harris starts to protest of this guy's dressing-down and Baldwin snaps back. He shows no mercy. Drills right through him. This is some of the best Baldwin has ever done.

"You see this watch? You see this watch? That watch costs more than you car. I made $970,000 last year. How much you make? You see pal, that's who I am, and you're nothing." He goes on and on, but I won't spoil it here.

Then he FINALLY drops the bombshell. "We're adding a little something to this month's sales contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anybody want to see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you're fired."

And there are more than three salesman in the office. One way or another, a lot is going to be trimmed. Not necessarily fat. Just... trimmed. A lot. To save money.

The characters are sharply drawn and in a story that is intertwined and sown together with skill and surprise. The all-star cast does the best with Mamet's angry, fierce and realistic speak (the adaptation is by Mamet himself, from his Pulitzer-Prize winning play). Pacino is (as always, blistering) as the star salesman who's landed the top of the board with his fresh catch James Linsk (Alan Arkin).

Ed Harris as Dave Moss is good as an angry, self-righteous salesman who's just such a outright blowhard asshole. An arrogant S.O.B. A great moment is when someone finally deflates him. Pops the big bag of hot air. Shows him to be scared and insecure underneath it all. His repeated cries of "Fuck you!" just reveal how truly desperate and insecure he truly is...

The buttoned-down office manager John Williamson (Kevin Spacey) who's "by the books to the core" and has never been out there, selling it, in the sh*t a day in his life. He's just a company man. "A secretary... and white bread" as some of the salesman in the office call him.

But the true breadwinner is the touching elderly Jack Lemmon as Sheldon "The Machine" Levene. Once the office golden boy, he was ahead and selling big week after week after week... reigning the very top of the board. The owners used to say things like "That car, that trip to Bermuda... you bought that for me..." Now he just can't sell. He sounds so grandfatherly and princely on the phone... you want to trust him so much. He's like Santa Claus.

But Shelley cannot find anyone who wants to buy. All the name and address cards ("leads," they're called) are older than Lemmon. Many have moved on and found better service elsewhere. The machine is longer up and running and Lemmon does a magnificent job of painting him a portrait of a burned-out star. A has-been. It's painful to look into those big sad dog-eyes of his...

He at one point goes to the house of someone who just doesn't want to buy. That's understandable, isn't it? Hey, how many times have you met a salesman who just won't get it. But Shelley's desperate. He bargains. He pleads. He drops his price. No sale. His heart seems to be breaking when...

There are many a great moment in "GGL." Where Baldwin drills the troops, when Harris is hoisted on his own petard, when Lemmon works his old time magic with potential customers... and when a salesman pulls a hustling con on a customer... all to have one misunderstanding--a split second blow the deal.

It would be unfair to go on with how the rest plays out. Suffice to say that it is worth watching again and again and again. The whole movie. It's a hard-boiled classic. Look for it wherever you can. Ask for it by name: "Glengarry Glen Ross." The salesman mantra isn't just for the salesman--it's the way of life: "Sell or Die."

--Choosing To Sell, Dane Youssef


















9 years ago on 1 September 2009 04:26