Glen Garry, Glen Ross
This was earlier published by me at PFC:GlenGarry, Glen Ross.
There have been cameos, and some great cameos. And then there is Alec Baldwin in Glen Garry Glen Ross. Not quite often i had seen a cameo which just lasted for 10 minutes on screen, but was fucking mind blowing. As the hot shot, super egoistic salesman Blake, who comes to the corporate office to give a pep talk, Baldwin was the kind of boss, whom i had to deal with during my days as a sales engineer. And here he comes to get a bunch of real estate salesmen going. And his way of motivation is
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.
For me this particular quote was what really encapsulated the success at all costs American culture. The wide gap between the “winners” and “losers”, success being defined by what you have, not what you are and an inability to tolerate failure. Blake defines his success here by not what he has , not what he has done.
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. Nice guy, I don’t give a shit. Good father, fuck you. Go home and play with your kids. You wanna work here, close. You think this is abuse? You think this is abuse, you cocksucker? You can’t take this, how can you take the abuse you get on a sit?
Blake here is defining his worth by his watch and his car, pretty much like guys i knew who would boast of their range of credit cards, their latest gadget, their latest cars. But Blake’s significance goes just beyond Alec Baldwin’s histrionics, it is the character around which the movie turns. And the irony is that Blake’s character did not even exist in the original play of the same name by David Mamet. It was tagged along by director James Foley and Mamet who wrote the script for the movie.
Apart from Alec Baldwin the movie has one of the best ensemble casting you ever get to see- Al Pacino, Jonathan Pryce, Ed Harris, Jack Lemmon, Kevin Spacey and Alan Arkin. Guys who between themselves could sweep the entire Oscars and Golden Globe awards, some of the best in the business. With so many riches at his disposal, director James Foley, could have easily mucked up, comming out with an absolute turd of a movie. He could have let Pacino take center stage, and let others go into the background. It is to Foley’s credit however, that he etches out the characters well, and never lets one character dominate the other.
Pacino’s character of Ricky Roma, is something he could have done in his sleep. It is the typical kind of boorish, loud, cranky characters which Pacino seems to revel in. Ricky here is the “succesful” guy at the work place, a real estate agency. Here succesful as in, the kinda guy, who plays on the others insecurities, and browbeats them, bullies them. In short your friendly office bully. Ricky does not care for such niceties as ethics and honesty, he only cares about “closing”. Or as Blake puts it “ABC, A-Always B-Be C-Closing”. It is the most often used word in the movie( apart from fuck that is), it is what the character’s lives and their career as real estate agents revolve around.
The “loser” here is Jack Lemmon’s Shelley Levene, a once succesful salesman. Levene is the other end of the “American Dream”, some one whose best days are over, the guy deserving of Blake’s third prize. An old timer, who still believes in things like ethics and honesty, his career however is going nowhere. Levene however is desperate, he needs to “close” badly, else his job is on the line. He needs the job, the money for his daughter’s operation.
Ed Harris is Dave Moss, a salesman with big dreams and ambitions. Yet he is never prepared to take the responsibility for his actions, something gets fucked up somewhere, it was not his fault. He is the slinky kind at your workplace, the guy who is ready to point fingers at some one, just to save his ass. And he keeps dragging his meek, nervous colleague George Aaronow( Alan Arkin), who has little self esteem, the easy to bully guy.
Lording over all of them is office manager John Williamson( Kevin Spacey), the guy whom every one in the office hates for different reason. Ricky loves to bully him, while Levene, thinks this guy is a mediocre jerk, who does not even know what his job is about. But much as every one detests Williamson, they still need him, for he has those potential leads that could be succesful.
Blake’s arrival kick starts everything, when he announces that only the top two salesmen would be retained, while the rest would be fired. Their only hope for survival is the “GlenGarry Leads”, basically a list of potential clients names and addresses with whom the deal could be “closed”. And that starts a desperate race for survival among the 4 agents to get those leads by hook or crook. Until it is found that the leads have been stolen, and some one has broken in to the office.
For some one like who has been in the corporate world for the last 10-12 years, the movie was somewhere echoing my own experiences, especially my days in marketing. Foley creates the kind of claustrophobic, depressing environment, by shooting a major part of the movie in the office setting. And no its not one of those plush offices with hot chicks in mini skirts kind. Its pretty much drab,m pretty much run down, and gloomy, and the use of low lighting and shadows in the first half, gives that movie its pretty gloomy tone. What we have are some of the most smarmy, unsympathetic characters constantly at loggerheads with each other, trying to pull each other down. Levene’s character is somewhat sympathetic, considering his age, and his family problems, but again he has no qualms in running down Williamson, insulting him. Ricky is the smarmiest jerk of the lot, bullying and browbeating every one. Moss fed up of being bullied wants to steal the leads and sell them to a rival agency. Arronow is the odd man out, but being the meek, helpless guy, he can just watch around.
Glen Garry Glen Ross, takes an uncompromising, relentlessly dark look at the “American Dream”, and its “success at all costs” culture. As you see the agents and Williamson, pull out all tricks to get those leads, you feel the tension. And considering that the movie rarely steps out of the office, you find yourself being cloistered in, squeezed in from all sides. It shows how “success” is hero worshipped to such an extent that a smarmy jerk like Ricky, is the “winner” at the work place. The Glengarry leads is the metaphor for what drives the American society, the goal, the target. That just a mere list of names and addresses, could make people throw all ethics out of the window, and make them get into shit, just to survive is scary.
For a movie that relies entirely on dialogue and where the action is concentrated only on one set piece, Glen Garry Glen Ross, grabs your attention, because of its script, and razor sharp dialogue. The dialogues are sharp, sarcastic and hard hitting. This is the kind of movie that should be watched, with no disturbance at all, and where every dialogue is critical. And that is because Foley and Mamet, move the story forward, with clever usage of dialogue, and yet making sure that the movie does not end up like a drama itself. And yes a powerful, ensemble cast lend it that extra intensity, especially in some crucial scenes like the one where Ricky, lambasts Williamson, over a deal, or the one where Levene begs Williamson to give him the leads. Performance wise Pacino is as usual brilliant in a role tailor made for him, Kevin Spacey is restrained and effective as Williamson. Alec Baldwin is awesome in that 10 minute cameo , Ed Harris as the slinky Moss and Alan Arkin as the meek Arranow, are brilliant. It is however veteran Jack Lemmon that catches our attention in a role that is sympathetic, he manages to make us empathize with his plight in a heart touching performance.
Glen Garry Glen Ross is a movie that makes you take a look at “Success” and “failure”, “winning” and “losing”, what happens when a society becomes addicted to ”success at any cost” mentality.