The current theme of stage to screen provides a vast amount of cinematic selections so let’s get back at it with a biting flick that proudly sports saucy slang and pitch perfect performances – welcome to Forgotten Friday Flick! Today we’re heading back into David Mamet (we’ve already explored House of Games film fans!) land for a poignant peek into the cutthroat world of real estate. Seems the suit and tie guys here are itching to be top of the board and are willing to go to some extreme lengths to get there. Getting good leads, always be closing and brass balls – welcome the salesmen of…Glengarry Glen Ross.
Real estate is a tough racket and no one knows it better then the salesmen of Premiere Properties. Shelley “The Machine” Levene is the elder statesmen of the group, a former star salesman on a current losing streak who reeks of desperation. Then there’s George Aaronow and Dave Moss, a couple of lackey sad sacks who are all talk and no show. And finally there’s the charismatic Richard Roma, top man on the sales board who could convince an Eskimo to buy ice. They all use various tactics to get the land sold with lying, conning and double talk mere tricks of the trade. But after being told make a sale or be fired someone has robbed the office of the new Glengarry leads – which one is the question.
Being planted firmly in the rich cadence of David Mamet, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his play, Glengarry Glen Ross is work that is hard to mess up. It simply needs top-notch actors, a grungy tone and someone who gets that the dialogue is king. At Close Range (another hidden gem!) helmer James Foley fully understands all of the above casting with the crème de la crème of Hollywood, keeping the proceedings down and dirty and attacking the lines at a record pace. But Foley also puts an interesting color palate on display and whether inside a local dive bar, on the rain ridden street or back in the rut of the real estate offices, it enhances the emotions that are being shown within a specific scene. It’s an added visual enhancement that works well within the confines of an almost surreal world of slick sales and helps bring Mamet’s work to a big screen setting. Mamet himself adds written fuel to the fire not only adding a few scenes that hammer home the plight of the characters within but also with an added intro scene meant to set a tone and at the same time kneecap – and it does both.
Which leads us right into the heart of Glengarry Glen Ross namely the cast and they’re the final reason the film is truly a five star find. Beginning with the single scene stealing Alec Baldwin as the charismatic and brutal bastard Blake of Mamet’s new opening who tells his ailing salesmen to sell or get the hell out (in by far the best performance of his career!), the film is cast and layered with pitch perfect precision. The late great Jack Lemmon makes the perfect broken-spirited Shelley, a man whose unbreakable slum has virtually left him a shell of his previous self. Ed Harris and Alan Arkin as Dave and George are the almost comical odd couple of this dysfunctional family, their polar opposite anger and calm demeanors making memorable bedfellows. Then there’s the sassy Richard Roma and in lieu of stage originator, Tony Award winner and Mamet regular Joe Mantenga, Al Pacino is the right man for the job. His Roma is so sleek, so charming and so magnetic that when first introduced we don’t even know he’s one of the property pushing gang – hence his hold over latest victim Jonathan Pryce playing a deer caught in Roma’s bright selling headlights. And all are managed by meek office head Kevin Spacey in an early performance that may seem simple at first, but grows interesting and complex as the film goes on. Everyone here, as in Mamet’s written words themselves, works in tandem to create a rich in character world and makes even a film sometimes set inside a brightly lit real estate office a thing of beauty.
Some take issue with the salty language infused by Mamet to build such a brutal world, but I’m with the late Lemmon who understood that such a terse tactic was used not to merely be salacious – that’s how these guys speak. Matching Mamet’s already five-star play with a visual home befitting of the beauty of the material, Foley and company put on one hell of a show – set of steak knives for everyone.