We have all spent time cursing the eternally infuriating salesman. Selling things we don’t ever seem to need or want. Always calling at the most inopportune of moments. Based on David Mamet’s acclaimed play, Glengarry Glen Ross tells the story of four middle-aged men, who are proud members of this despised breed, over the course of one long night and the following morning. Working for a real estate firm, they spend their days on the phone, enticing prospects with promises of once in a lifetime investment opportunities. Voices all smooth and friendly, introducing variations into the endlessly rehearsed and repeated pitch, trying to secure a sit. Searching for that elusive close.
Blake, the bigshot from downtown head-office, with the 80,000 dollar BMW, is here to unveil the latest motivational plan designed by the higher-ups. A sales contest. Blake dangles the new premium Glengarry leads under the noses of the hungry salesmen before announcing that those would go only to the closers. The obvious objective is to drive these men, already reaching the end of their tethers, beyond the edge. Deliver or be fucked.
Shelly “the machine” Levene, an old-timer, a former star salesman, doesn’t appear to have lost his touch. He has all the tricks of the trade at his fingertips. But lady luck has left him in the lurch for sure. Each time he puts the phone down with a gesture of dejected weariness, he waits for a moment or two to muster up enough ‘cheer’, before he dials up the next useless lead. Dave Moss is also tired of the routine failures and humiliation. And he’s angry. Enough to think of extreme measures. But also shrewd enough to keep himself out of the line of fire. Ricky Roma is the reigning king of the house. He’s on a hot sales streak, variously attributed to talent, slice of luck or brass balls. Finally Williamson, their manager. Hated by the salesmen as the pansy corporate boy, prefers to play by the book, his favorite line being, “I don’t make the rules”.
Their’s a dog-eat-dog world. Natural selection is imposed brutally. Fairness, dignity are irrelevant. A thin line separates ambition from desperation. A good month. and you are dreaming of the top spot on the board and the accompanying prize. A couple of bad months and you are fighting to save yourself from being kicked out onto the street. These men have developed an internal mode of communication in which variants of the ‘f’ word constitute the bulk of their lexicon. Out of the interplay of profanities David Mamet creates dialogue with a taut, tense lyricism all its own. Which pounds on our consciousness for attention.
This movie is almost a chamber-piece. Set on the fringes of the cut-throat corporate world, it takes us deep into the interiors of the rundown sales office, across the street from the Chinese restaurant. With the manager’s room at one end and the coffee machine at the other. And in the middle, the salesmen, their eyes on the blackboard and hands on the telephone, hanging on to their desks for dear life. Forced to measure their masculinity by the size of their commissions. Their cut of the contract. Because that’s all that matters.
Glengarry Glen Ross is available to stream for free on Tubi TV. Starring Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris, Kevin Spacey, Jonathan Pryce, Alan Arkin and Alec Baldwin.