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Glengarry Glen Ross

August 31, 2013

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
Director: James Foley
Actors: Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, Kevin Spacey

Glengarry Glen Ross

Synopsis: The tensions in an out-of-town real estate office go into overdrive when the corporate manager (Alec Baldwin) from “downtown” issues an ultimatum that the two worst performers in the team will be fired by the end of the month.

Review: This riotous satire of downtrodden white-collar salesmanship – a kind of Death of a Salesman: Part 2 – is a theatrical tour de force, and a real showcase for some of the best male actors that Hollywood had to offer in the early ’90s. David Mamet’s portrait of the pressure-cooker atmosphere in a dowdy sales office in the backwaters of Chicago offers ample opportunity for the actors to let rip, and he’s rewarded by a uniformly brilliant set of pitch-perfect performances, clearly some of the best work that the likes of Al Pacino, Ed Harris, Kevin Spacey, Alec Baldwin, and even the great Jack Lemmon, have ever done.

Yes, the material may be inherently theatrical, but the concentrated simplicity of the premise rewards the idea of transferring it from the stage to the big screen. Director James Foley tries, wherever possible, to make the material break out of those theatrical origins, most notably in the subtly clever perspective that gradually withdraws from Lemmon’s increasingly desperate salesman when he’s boasting about his latest lead – heightening the pathos he projects. And talking of Jack Lemmon, though it seems unfair to focus on one particular performance when it’s all about the ensemble, his portrayal of Sheldene “The Machine” Levene is an absolute acting masterclass. He nails his character’s inner soul: weary and brow-beaten, but ratcheting up intermittently into bouts of pent-up rage. Lemmon’s sales voice too is such a clever projection of a man who has been tiredly reprising the same forlorn pitch his whole life.

Glengarry Glen Ross is also one of those rare works that elevates profanity to an artform. Each character gets their own venting ‘moment in the sun’, usually at the expense of Kevin Spacey’s hapless office manager, and Al Pacino’s venomous disgust at Spacey’s character’s faux pas in sabotaging one of his character’s sales is a bravura exhibition of sheer and unadulterated contempt. (August 2013)

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