Friday, May 27, 2011

Glengarry Glen Ross

"Put. That. Coffee. Down. Coffee is for closers only."

If I had to give a 14-word description of Glengarry Glen Ross, it would be: a modern-day noir-esque Death of a Salesman with more swearing than The Big Lebowski. Given the ensemble cast, with great actors from Alec Baldwin to Jack Lemmon, it would be very hard for this film to disappoint.
Glengarry Glen Ross, directed by James Foley, is all about the writing (which is very appropriate, seeing as sales is all about talking). The film opens with a very funny monologue from Alec Baldwin’s character, a corporate hotshot brought in to motivate jaded real estate salesmen. This is the high point of comedy in the film, however, as the rest consists the both professional and emotional decline of the employees of the company, and the decline of the company itself.
I feel as though this movie made only a halfhearted attempt at the film noir style. It would have been interesting to see the filmmakers either take this idea all the way, or abandon it completely, because it feels like it is in a stylistic gray area. That being said, I loved the use of rain in the beginning to set the initial tone, and the sound of the train passing in the background whenever someone was yelling especially loudly.
As far as storyline, Glengarry Glen Ross is definitely a tragedy, if not solely due to Jack Lemmon’s character Shelley Levene, an aging salesman who can never be as good at his job as he used to be. My mom drew a comparison between Shelley and Gil, the token unsuccessful businessman on “The Simpsons” (later on we found out that Gil is actually based on Lemmon’s character.)
The interesting thing about the portrayal of the characters is that we are barely given a glimpse into their lives outside their jobs. It is almost as if they exist solely as underpaid, under-appreciated employees, working to sell land that doesn’t exist to people who don’t want to invest. I think this is the point of the film: the author’s criticism of the modern-day labor force and its ultimately dehumanizing powers.
Glengarry Glen Ross is a well-made and well-acted film. But because it is mostly dialogue-based and has very few locations, I think it probably works better for stage, the medium in which it was originally written.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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