For Matt Seelke’s second-to-last presentation before he went and became a dad and stopped coming to movie night, there might or might not have been a short. We don’t know. I would have thought that if there were any appropriate short for James Foley’s adaptation of the David Mamet play Glengarry Glen Ross, it would have been something involving the F word. But to my surprise, it turns out that with (according to IMDB) an only moderate 138 uses of the profanity of profanities, it doesn’t even make the Wikipedia list, which cuts off at 150. So it goes.
Without any further ado, and armed with only a minor recollection of the plot, it’s time to live-review…Glengarry Glen Ross!
Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Kevin Spacey, Jonathan Pryce, holy crap, who ISN’T in this movie? That’s the most impressive pre-title credits sequence since, what, It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World?
It seems that the whole lot of them (at least everybody but Baldwin) are real estate salesmen who alternately work in a rainy office and in the phone booths of the Chinese restaurant across the street. Leads. That’s what they’re all worried about. Weak leads. Nobody seems to want to buy these Rio Rancho Estates.
So in from the downtown office comes Alec Baldwin to offer them a bargain. There’s a one-week sales contest. First prize is a car. Second prize is a set of steak knives.
Third prize is you’re fired. Baldwin also throws out a homophobic slur, which is deliciously ironic given his continual…problems with that sort of thing in real life. Also, there’s the matter of the Glengarry leads. These are good leads – but Baldwin ain’t giving those out. Not to these losers. Only to closers. So they’ve got to go out (in the rain, in the late evening) and get some sales before they get fired. Al Pacino skipped the meeting. But apparently he’s had a good run lately so he perhaps feels entitled to skip crap like getting yelled at by a pretentious wanker from downtown.
So the salesmen get to work – lying their butts off like you can’t believe. I’m the vice-president…just got in to the airport…our computer has chosen your name out of thousands of people who have expressed interest in our property in the middle of Arizona. It just makes you want a telemarketer to call so you can yell at them for catharsis. It’s the hard sell. Makes me sick just to watch, and it’s fiction.
OK, I hate to do this, but after 20 minutes I’m going to rewind (metaphorically, it’s a DVD) this film because I’ve got to count the number of times they say “leads”. It’s going to beat the F-word by a ton, I know it.
Everybody’s having a hard time. Lemmon, on a particular cold streak, is trying to get the manager Spacey to sell him some of the verboten Glengarry leads. Harris and Arkin, discontent, are talking about stealing the Glengarry leads right out of the office, jumping ship, and selling them to another salesman in business for his own, then going to work for him. Of course, when Arkin doesn’t want to do the job himself, Harris threatens him with the consequences…just for listening. Meanwhile Pacino closes Pryce, a random bar patron, over several drinks.
And the next morning…a robbery has happened. In addition to the phones and some contracts, the Glengarry leads have been stolen, and the cops are interviewing the salesmen. And in the middle of it Pryce comes in, clearly trying to back out of the deal. He knows that he has three days to change his mind and his wife is not having it. In the midst of the commotion over Pryce cancelling the deal, Lemmon slips up and lets on something unknown about the stolen contracts. Lemmon it turns out, not Arkin, was the thief ultimately in cahoots with Harris. In return Spacey lets on, deliberately, that he has been giving terrible leads to Lemmon, just because he doesn’t like him – and what does it matter because Lemmon is going down.
And, tragically, the film ends too early – the word “leads” was only used 114 times to the 138 of the granddaddy of all curse words. Such a travesty.
But in all honesty, I kind of hate this movie. Only kind of. It’s got plenty of snappy dialogue, but that’s about it. Not a single sympathetic character, just scam artists trying to rip people off one way or another. There’s nothing redeeming about any aspect of the film’s plotline. Good dialogue, sure, but when you have to sit through an hour and a half of terrible people to get it…it’s not the level of uncomfortable that this movie makes me feel (compare the Late Night Phone Calls scene from Swingers) but it’s just the sheer duration of ick that makes it hard to tolerate. Let’s put it this way – if the aliens are monitoring our broadcasts to learn more about humans as a species, the list of movies I hope they catch includes It’s A Wonderful Life, but it doesn’t include Glengarry Glen Ross. (Or Hope Floats. Just getting in a random dig at that cinematic piece of trash. Semi-random. I mean, both movies made me lose my faith in humanity, but at least GGR did it with a bit of panache.)