Rock of Ages opens today and the worst part about the trailer is how ridiculous and out of place Alec Baldwin looks. For the vault selection, I was searching for a prouder, more respectable Alec and, as if he read my mind, Kai posted his Top 10 Films: Kevin Spacey wherein he praises Alec for his cameo in Glengarry Glen Ross. Having never watched this acclaimed film, what better choice was there?
Ricky Roma (Al Pacino), Shelley Levene (Jack Lemmon), George Aaronow (Alan Arkin), and Dave Moss (Ed Harris) are four shady real estate salesman at Premiere Properties struggling to close their pitiful leads. On this dreary evening their manager, John Williamson (Kevin Spacey), introduces Blake (Alec Baldwin), a motivator sent by the head office to “inspire” the salesman to greatness lest they want to be sent packing. Four men enter, two men leave (and two men stay and earn the prime Glengarry leads) … Welcome to real estate.
Based on the David Mamet play of the same name and adapted to the screen also by Mamet, Glengarry Glen Ross is a dialogue-driven film that, like any good salesman, sucks the audience in with its strident manner and unwavering determination. In the original stage play there was no Blake character, but Alec Baldwin takes this specially penned role and fucking owns it. The obnoxious, condescending achiever belittles the lackluster salesmen, and then wipes his feet on their crushed egos before leaving. A small role in a brief scene, but made unforgettable by the set of brass balls Baldwin figuratively, and literally, pulls out for the performance.
As for the other actors, do they rise up to Baldwin’s standard? Let me remind you, it’s Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alan Arkin, Ed Harris and Kevin Spacey so, yeah, abso-fucking-lutely. Being a huge fan of The Simpsons, it is a most excellent treat to finally absorb Lemmon’s portrayal of Shelley, the inspiration for their character Gil Gunderson. Obviously, Lemmon does him better and watching the dedication, fervor, and effortless guile Shelley attacks both his customers and his boss with is impressive. As the boss, Spacey shines as the unassuming, yet surprisingly shrewd Williamson. He takes a lot of abuse from his pack, but, given the appropriate time, dishes it right back at them.
Harris’s Moss is a blowhard good at instigating and bitching while Arkin’s Aaronow is perpetually lost within his own concerns, and seems almost too polite to be swimming among these sharks. Pacino’s Roma, like many of Pacino’s more memorable characters, is an odd duck. Roma’s philosophical waxing to James Lingk (Jonathan Pryce) at the neighboring Chinese restaurant is perplexing, but over time and with the revelation of the office’s robbery, Roma proves exactly why he’s the king of sales at their small firm.
Did I not mention the robbery? The less said about that, the better. It’d be an injustice to ruin the story. Besides, the robbery provides another outlet for the salesmen to do what they do best (despite Blake’s admonishments to the contrary); to sell.
I was hesitant to give Glengarry Glen Ross five hearts because I wasn’t overly impressed by James Foley’s direction. On the one hand, the close-ups and leering overhead shots provide an unobtrusive canvas to showcase the profane dialogue and impressive portrayals. Conversely, it could have been lazy directing, choosing instead to coast on those strengths. I’ll have to confirm the rating after I watch it again, and again, and again, because yeah, the oh-so-quotable dialogue and those performances are that damned good.