Glengarry Glen Ross - DVD Review

'Baldwin is here for a single, fairly famous scene, during which he delivers a level of sales coaching verging on assault.'

An extremely stage-bound play, by rights, there is little reason why Glengarry Glen Ross should automatically translate to screen. The now quite obvious approach to combating this problem taken by director James Foley was simple: cast really big players, capable of elevating anything to the screen.

The result is a film in which Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alan Arkin, Ed Harris, Kevin Spacey and Alec Baldwin literally shout you into a level of submission that sees you accept that David Mamet's play works on the big screen. Baldwin is here for a single, fairly famous scene, during which he delivers a level of sales coaching verging on assault. 'Put that coffee down', is his opening gambit to Lemmon's hapless Shelley Levene, 'coffee is for closers'. Baldwin's scene sets the tone for the combative main of the rest of the film.

Beyond the surface level oft-hilarious shouting and dubious sales techniques, it is difficult to conclude anything other than the fact the Glengarry Glen Ross is a film about machismo and its variously faltering states. The aforementioned sextet of stars all seem to typify the male id at various broad points, and do so in a film that features no female characters, with only one on-screen female role credited (Lori Tan Chinn as 'Coat Check Girl').

Struggling in particular with their place in life are Harris, Arkin and Lemmon as Dave Moss, George Aaronow and Shelley respectively. Moss is clearly the depiction of false male bravado: all mouth and no trousers, insults with nothing to back it up, sales rapport with no sales. Aaronow and Shelley, perhaps cruelly, seem trapped by age; Aaronow apparently forced to follow Moss' plan because he no longer has one of his own, Shelley still involved in this game because he has healthcare commitments to fund. 'You'll have your money tomorrow', Shelley tells a doctor, with the same tone as someone paying off a bad debt with his drug dealer. Both he and Aaronow variously crumble throughout, the latter forgetting the name of the person he is meant to be selling to, one of many small details that make up a compelling background picture.

Blake meanwhile - Baldwin at the height of his ferocity - is the machismo that Moss is not, a man with both mouth and trousers. Not that that means we should revere him, quite the opposite. Blake is shown to clearly be obsessed with materiality. Everything he works towards, every example he gives as to why he is better than Moss is rooted in something he owns; his car, his watch, his wage packet. Yet he is clearly little more than an 'inspirational' mouthpiece, a car bumper sticker. Blake tells the group nothing about selling they don't already know, delivering his over-simple pitch (sell or get out) at military levels, rooted in his own obsessions. It is little wonder that, ultimately, it is this pitch which causes the destruction of the group, in various ways.

John Williamson (Spacey) meanwhile is the man in a position of entitlement, without the skill or knowledge to be there. Referred to at one point as being family of someone higher up the foodchain, and therefore detailing machismo under nepotism, Williamson ultimately fails in his role because he 'doesn't understand the play', when Roma (Pacino) needs help. Pacino, in stereotypical screaming mode that calls to mind his 'she's got a... GREAT ASS' line delivery in Heat, surprisingly seems to represent the effeminate side of masculinity, something which directly leads to his success. His sales patter with unsuspecting mark James (Jonathan Pryce) in the Chinese restaurant across the road from the office is less that, more pick-up attempt. When Pacino finally gets to the pitch he is practically sitting in Pryce's lap. In this macho world, it is surprising but welcome to find that Mamet's sales hero is the man who does his selling not through shouting, but through canoodling.

Glengarry Glen Ross is released on new DVD in the UK on Monday 15th September.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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