There’s something very special to me about a film that can contain itself to just one room and pull off some of the greatest performances and pacing of all its contemporaries. Reservoir Dogs still sits atop of the pile, but Glengarry Glen Ross came so close to toppling Tarnatino’s debut in the “who can make the best one room drama” contest. Glengarry Glen Ross follows a group of cold callers, who, threatened with unemployment, go to extreme lengths to finalise their sales records.
An all-star cast pave the way to some of the least remembered yet most enjoyable cinema. Al Pacino’s starring, Oscar-nominated role as Ricky Roma is superb. He spends most of his time off-screen, up until the second half of the movie he’s merely a rumour. A legend the other employees speak of. He’s at the top of the leader board, sweeping up sales left, right and centre. The rest of the employees are entangled in feelings of admiration, jealously and venomous spite towards Roma.
My first experience with a Jack Lemmon performance is a real triumph. His abilities as an actor are truly superb and he has a keen ability to jump from wildly erratic and dangerous to vulnerable and weak at a moment’s notice. His performance here as Shelley “The Machine” Levine is incredible, and for those that have no base of reference for his work, this seems to be a great entry point for a prolific comic and dramatic actor. His frequent scenes with Kevin Spacey are consistently tense and enjoyable, leading to Lemmon stealing the show in a well written role.
It’s a very performance-based piece, based on the David Mamet play of the same name. Mamet’s adaptation is superb, with many of the strongest lines going to Lemmon, Baldwin and Pacino. My only concern is the wasteful use of Alan Arkin, who doesn’t exactly cement himself as an interesting or even important character. He’s there for filler, and the same can be said to a lesser extent for that of Ed Harris. The two conspire to steal the leads, and it’s their only piece of character development. After that though they jump ship, and the movie then focuses on Lemmon, Spacey and Pacino.
Although there are moments of trouble throughout, the general form of Glengarry Glen Ross creates such a superb piece of film. Filled with anxiety ridden characters that will stop at nothing to stay in the game, Mamet’s big screen adaptation of a resounding play is a triumph, and one of the greatest movies of all time.