Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
This has been sitting on my shelf for sometime now, having a massive backlog of films to get through I finally made my way to Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) which for it’s running time is surprising pack full. A cast that is brimming over too. From legendary Jack Lemmon to Alec Baldwin who makes a cameo of sorts that really stirs things up for four sales men, made to really push themselves during the midst of the last economic crash.
From the get-go we have a fast-paced talker of a film, with two men in separate phone booths, having many varied conversations in the space of a few minutes, setting up deals, calling home etc, these are men of work who know what they are doing. Driven and very tired. On returning to the office their’s and their colleagues lives are turned upside down by a successful young salesmen who could eat any of them for breakfast, coming from head-office to tell them to sell, sell, sell or be fired. Rightly sending these men four men into a state of anger and frustration. For the veteran Levene (Lemmon) who hasn’t “closed” a deal in a while is pushed to the brink. Whilst two others Aaronow (Alan Arkin) and Moss (Ed Harris) take a different route, instead of selling, have intense conversations about the situation, trying to understand why it’s happening. All being given “leads” (which takes a while to understand, turning out to be customers who have unwittingly ticked a box on a form to be harassed by salesmen for products they don’t really want) which are dead, but having to close to get the new leads on red card, gift tied, ready to be handed out to the closers (customers who sign checks and sealing the deal).
Whilst almost unaware of all of this going on back at the office, a slick salesmen is at work Roma (Al Pacino) is talking to a guy at the bar, luring him in with his soft sell on anything but what he wants to sell, once in he will pounce and lay his cards on the table to James Lingk (Jonathan Pryce). He’s the real pro of the four sales men who are otherwise finding their own ways to deal with their ultimatum.
Who you really have to look out for is Williamson (Kevin Spacey) the office manager who appears to not give a damn, just doing his job by the book, not caring to really help the men he’s paid to support. A man of bureaucracy who just files payments for the men. There’s more than meets the eye with this one who you really have to keep an eye, like most of Spacey’s roles always changing at the last minute.
I can really see where The Simpsons character of Gil comes from now the suffering salesmen who is never able to get a deal to close, always so close yet so far. An old pro who has lost his edge, in denial that his glory days are long behind him. He still has all the sales patter but something is missing, that air of confidence has been replaced with desperation. Something the others haven’t yet reached. For a time I didn’t feel comfortable hearing Lemmon effing and blinding every other word in office, until I just gave up thinking about it. They all do it so well, like The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) just without the drugs, the women and the money. It’s all in the language foul or not, this is a competitive dog eat dog world they are in. They know that potential customers don’t want cold callers, its how they have to get around it that makes them stand out from the crowd.
A robbery is planned on the night of the ultimatum, we believe we know who is going to commit, spoken about between two of the men. This is the real twist that makes this a great film as the conclusion draws near. We believe we know who’s done it, acting all defensive towards everyone. But in the end it doesn’t really matter, they are all screwed in one way or another, the robbery, deals falling through, some leaving the company all together. Leaving us with a look into the sales mens world, not even 24 hours really as they have to get up and become one of the arrogant hard sellers who are wearing gold watches and driving the latest cars. The language may not be as intelligent as some film, but it’s made up for in its delivery, in a mens world where sometimes all they have are words to attack with, they are their tools to sell, sell, sell.
I can imagine this plot is still going on around the world, driving people to sell products people don’t really want, by people they don’t want to be bothered by. Everyone has answered cold calls this month or last. It’s fiercely competitive working on OTE (on target earnings) doing what they can to make some money. Glengarry Glen Ross is a glimpse into that murky world where we find the human story that for 90 odd minutes incredibly engaging.