In Glengarry Glen Ross, a team of four struggling real estate salesmen are battling for their jobs.
A small firm brings in a young, talented salesman named Blake (Alec Baldwin) to motivate a small group of four real estate salesmen, informing them that only the top two would remain. In addition to keeping their jobs, the winner will receive a new Cadillac and access to better sales leads. The salesmen are Shelley “The Machine” Levene (Jack Lemmon), Dave Moss (Ed Harris), George Aaronow (Alan Arkin), and Ricky Roma (Al Pacino), led by office manager John Williamson (Kevin Spacey). As the deadline draws nearer, the men all have their own increasingly desperate tactics to getting sales from their current leads and eventually someone steals the famed Glengarry leads.
Originally written as a play by famed playwright David Mamet, Glengarry Glen Ross is committed to film and executed similar to a stage set. Most of the film takes place in the small office and each actor has a very unique personality that would lend itself well to the stage. However, even though the origin of the film is the stage, it doesn’t hold the film back in any way. The characters and dialogue are what matter here and each actor simply does a fantastic job in their respective roles.
Speaking of the actors in Glengarry Glen Ross, I think this is some of the finest work Lemmon and Baldwin have ever done, Lemmon especially. That isn’t to say that Arkin, Harris, Pacino, and Spacey slouch, quite the opposite. It wasn’t until 30 Rock that Alec Baldwin found a role that defined his career more, in my opinion. As for Lemmon, it is a bit harder to pinpoint a favorite role in his storied career, but when The Simpsons create a recurring character around Lemmon as Levene, I would say that is an indicator of success.
While Glengarry Glen Ross lacks action, it does provide a fair bit of tension between the characters. You root for them but also kind of loathe them for their slimy tactics to get the sale. The art of salesmanship is still quite strong and the material here holds up surprisingly well. As a character study, few films do so much with so little on screen which really makes the dialogue shine. Glengarry Glen Ross is far from flashy but character dramas may not come much better.
Oh, and in case you were wondering what the title means, both Glengarry and Glen Ross are real estate developments being sold in the film.
I give it 4 “always be closing”s out of 5.