Just us, the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Maythew #8: Glenngary Glen Ross (1992)

* * * 1/2

Director: James Foley
Starring: Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alan Arkin, Ed Harris, Kevin Spacey, Alec Baldwin

If you looked up "Actors' Showcase" in the dictionary, you'd find a still from Glengarry Glen Ross. There are few films that can compete with it in terms of the acting because the entire cast is simply at the top of their game. The writing is similarly stellar and though the direction left me a bit wanting, the film as a whole is wonderful.

The story takes place over the course of a night and a morning in a real estate office where things are desperate. Of the four salesmen, only Ricky (Al Pacino) is really in a good place while Shelley (Jack Lemmon), George (Alan Arkin), and Dave (Ed Harris) are all at the mercy of "the leads," a stack of cards held by office manager Williamson (Kevin Spacey) and doled out to reward good salesmen or punish bad ones. Only Ricky gets the good leads because only Ricky closes. Shelley needs a lead something desperate as he's got hospital bills to pay and the narrative arc that he goes through is amazingly played by Lemmon. He's such a sad, needy character that it's hard not to feel for him (though for a Simpsons watcher it's also kind of hard to look at him and not think of Gil).

While Ricky works on a mark, Dave comes up with a plot to break into the office and steal the good leads and then sell them. He shares his plan with George and then turns around and tries to blackmail George into breaking into the office for him, reasoning that he's the first person the police will look at and George is already an accessory to the crime just by listening to his pitch. Poor George.

The scene that everyone talks about, of course, is Alec Baldwin's brief appearance as the "motivational" speaker sent from downtown and the scene is indeed electrifying. There's a reason that it has taken on a life all its own, but the rest of the film is great too. Watching these actors playing off each other is never anything but a delight and the only real criticism I have of the film is that it never fully loses the stagey feeling that plagues so many stage to screen adaptations. The scenes often feel closed in, which works in some cases but is a bit distracting in others. All in all, however, Glengarry Glen Ross is a great film and one that has held up very well over the years.

Matt's Thoughts: They sure are good at swearing.

I love the fact that they don't let on who the theif is until the end, and you watch George throughout the film worried that he'll be carted off to jail for something that wasn't his own idea. I always wonder, in the end, if Dave is going through the motions of flipping out in an attempt to cover for the crime he thinks George commited, if he's furious because George told him he couldn't go through with it, and now thinks that he did and just trying to cut Dave out of the deal, or if he's just angry because someone else broke in before he and Dave had a chance to.

I always love Kevin Spacey as a villain, and I especially love that he's not really the villain in this movie; he's just a man doing his job. Shelley, on the other hand, is meant to be the sympathetic character, but I just don't really feel it. For most of the movie I do, of course, worry for him, but it's when he tries to pull one over on Williamson and grows evermore smug in his efforts to get Williamson fired, that I just feel very removed from the character. I just don't buy Shelley's pleas for mercy from Williamson after he just tried to do to Williamson what Williamson is forced to do to him, due to Shelley having done so in the first place.

As with many movies, I land on the side of K-Space.

1 comment:

Rankography said...

Nice review. I loved this movie and found the desperation among Lemmon and Arkin to be so "very pathetic" that you feel their pain.

You should come and register your site at Rankography. You can describe your blink and get a quality link to your site.