Tag Archives: David Mamet

Desperation and Deception: Glengarry Glen Ross

Glengarry Glen Ross is a 1992 film based on a play by David Mamet. The movie follows a group of real estate salesmen who are struggling to sell properties in a tough market. The film features an all-star cast including Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin, Kevin Spacey, and Ed Harris.

Characters and motivation

The characters are portrayed as desperate, scheming, and cutthroat, willing to do whatever it takes to close a deal. The characters are portrayed as desperate, scheming, and cutthroat, willing to do whatever it takes to close a deal.

The character of Ricky Roma, played by Al Pacino, is the top salesman in the company. He is smooth-talking and manipulative, and he knows how to close a deal. His motivation is to make as much money as possible, and he is willing to bend the rules to achieve his goal.

Shelley “The Machine” Levene, played by Jack Lemmon, is an older salesman who is struggling to make sales. He is desperate to keep his job and maintain his reputation as a successful salesman. His motivation is to regain his former glory, help out her ailing daughter and prove that he still has what it takes to close a deal.

Dave Moss, played by Ed Harris, is a salesman who is frustrated with the company and his low sales numbers. He hatches a plan to steal the valuable sales leads from the office safe and sell them to a rival company. His motivation is to get revenge on the company and make a quick profit.

John Williamson, played by Kevin Spacey, is the office manager who is responsible for assigning leads to the salesmen. He is cold and calculating and is more concerned with the bottom line than the well-being of his employees. His motivation is to keep the company profitable and his own job secure.

Alec Baldwin’s character, Blake, is a corporate trainer who delivers the famous “ABC” (Always Be Closing) speech to the salesmen. He is aggressive and abusive, and his motivation is to intimidate the salesmen into working harder and making more sales. (First prize? A Cadillac and third prize? Getting fired)

Their motivations drive the plot and provide the necessary impetus for the climax. The climax of the film exposes the corrupt and unethical behavior of the salesmen and reveals the consequences of their actions. The investigation and the subsequent fallout demonstrate the lengths that the salesmen will go to in order to secure a sale, and the consequences of their actions ultimately lead to their downfall.

Cast and Performance

Glengarry Glen Ross features an exceptional cast of talented actors, each delivering powerful performances in their respective roles. It is difficult to single out just one actor who gave the best performance, as each actor brought a unique perspective and interpretation to their character.

However, Al Pacino’s portrayal of Ricky Roma stands out as particularly memorable and captivating. Pacino’s performance as the smooth-talking and manipulative top salesman was both charismatic and chilling. He brought a sense of intensity and energy to the role, and his dialogue delivery was impeccable. His silence speaks volume as well, like in the scenes towards the climax, with his client who will soon become his ex-client. Pacino’s performance was widely acclaimed and earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

That being said, Jack Lemmon’s portrayal of Shelley Levene was also remarkable. Lemmon brought a sense of vulnerability and desperation to the role, and his character’s struggle to make a sale was both heartbreaking and relatable. His emotional breakdown in the final scene and its subdued portrayal, was a powerful and poignant moment in the film.

Overall, all the actors delivered excellent performances, and each performance added to the depth and complexity of the film, and together they created a memorable and impactful ensemble, to make Glengarry Glen Ross a gripping and intense film.

The Verdict- Director’s commentary

The Verdict film is a classic. But what’s equally brilliant is the director’s commentary that comes with the Blu-Ray. Sidney Lumet gives some terrific insights and interesting tidbits. Here are a few.

  1. Information about side actors, like one patient in the hospital scene who is infact a holocaust survivor.
  2. Paul Newman’s contribution to character building like using eye-drops etc.
  3. His overall theme of no bright colors and the larger than life locations to create the feeling that Paul Newman character is up against something very big and somber. More like he is way out of his league.
  4. How David Mamet turns a cliched scene over its head. Example when Paul Newman realizes who the head nurse was protecting, but hands over the paper to his colleague, who then does the reveal.
  5. How David Mamet builds the tension for the main character and keeps the audience glued to his struggle–just when he gets a hooray, he is pushed down by a few blocks and his mired in self doubt. Example, when he loses his star witness and makes the call to defence lawyer and when he meets his girlfriend in the hotel.
  6. His rehearsal method and how actors still give something on top of it during the actual take. Paul Newman realizing that after couple of weeks rehearsal, he still had some distance to reach during the shoot.
  7. The famous last scene was infact had to be shot again due to some issue with the film, and how Paul Newman delivered a superb encore.
  8. How Paul Newman very narrowly escaped an accident (near the window that was used as poster for the film, which was Paul Newman’s idea) when bright lights became incendiary with the damp wood of the windows dried up, but the gaffer or lighting person didn’t estimate the dried factor.
  9. About how actors internalize the character and bring things to fore, example when Paul Newman’s girlfriend struggles with her guilt and gets out to make the phone call.
  10. His economy in direction, saving close-ups for something important, and waiting to do it at the right moment. Example, the scene where Paul Newman meets admitting nurse in NY.
  11. Point of view shots as seem necessary and not from the star’s point of view. Example, when Paul Newman visits his star witness’s house and the reveal of the news from the butler.
  12. How David Mamet constructs the scene from ordinary to extra ordinary reveal and puts together scenes not just to move the plot forward but also show something new about the characters. Example, the scene in which Paul Newman’s girl friend meets the defence attorney, where the plot is given a jolt alright, but we also know the background and motivation of her.
  13. How some movies go beyond what was there on the script and how they take their life on their own and then it is all upto the instinct of the director, the film just rolls on.
  14. Paul Newman missed an Oscar as ‘Gandhi’ sweeped the Oscars that year.
  15. How David Mamet creates the see saw of possibilities, like whether the lead character would achieve his goal, but also sometimes throws in indicators that he might just pull it off. Example when his expert witness though disappointed with the outcome of his testimony, still breathes hope in Paul Newman and the audience, saying to the effect ‘how people react to truth might surprise us’.

Tailpiece: My father was not much in favor of elaborate rehearsals even for TV series. This, inspite of his stage experience is a surprising thing for me.