Saturday, March 25, 2017

Glengarry Glen Ross

Tomorrow is apparently Alan Arkin's birthday. I had been looking through my DVR for something available on DVD to do a post about, and decided upon Glengarry Glen Ross before realizing Arkin's birthday was coming up, and it was pure serendipity that Arkin happens to be in the cast of Glengarry Glen Ross.

The setting is an office of a real estate/property development company. The office is a run-down dump, with four agents and their supervisor working it. The agents haven't been all that successful, as the head office brings in a top guy from the corporate office (Alec Baldwin, who only gets the one scene) to shake things up: at the end of the month, whoever has the most in closings gets a car as first prize. Second place gets a set of steak knives, and last place gets fired. Oh, and there's a set of promising new leads -- but you'll only get them if you can close on the old leads we're giving you.

As for the four salesmen, there's Ricky (Al Pacino), who misses the meeting with the guy from corporate because he's trying to close a deal with Mr. Lingk (Jonathan Pryce) at a restaurant. There's also Shelley Levene (Jack Lemmon), the old guy who used to be the top seller but has fallen on hard times; mousy Aaronow (Alan Arkin); and manipulative Dave Moss (Ed Harris). Their immediate boss Williamson (Kevin Spacey) frankly supports the scheme since he sees how worthless the office is and his job is probably on the line too.

None of the three guys who actually shows up to the meeting is happy about it, although Shelley seems to be the one who's actually going to try to close a deal however difficult that might be. Dave, for his part, hits upon the idea of stealing the new leads, and selling them to a competitor and going to work for that competitor. To that end, he's really putting the moves on Aaronow to break in and steal the leads. After all, everybody knows Dave has the motive, bo he needs an alibi while somebody else goes in on the deal with him.

The next morning, everybody shows up to work to find that the place has been burgled and if not quite ransacked, at least disturbed. Meanwhile, two of the salesmen have actually been successful in closing deals: Shelley and Ricky. But as it turns out, both of their deals have catches....

Glengarry Glen Ross is a movie I have big problems with, mostly because of the way the characters are drawn. I've mentioned several times in the past that I'm not a fan of what I call the "comedy of lies", where somebody gets in comedic trouble by telling a lie, and then gets in ever bigger trouble by expanding on those lies. Glengarry Glen Ross isn't a comedy by any means. But the characters all lie incessantly to try to close the deals, and they're all so thoroughly dishonest that it's difficult to like any of them. Ricky, in particular, isn't just dishonest; he's a blowhard spewing philosophical nonsense. They also swear all the time, to the point that the dialogue gets tedious. It's a shame, because Lemmon and Pacino both actually put in good performances.

Glengarry Glen Ross is a movie that probably will appeal to people who like intelligent drama and character study dealing with difficult situations. But I think it's also the sort of movie that's liable to produce a sharp divide in opinions, even more than the sort of movie that could be described as not being very good.

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