The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

The post where I try to sell Glengarry Glen Ross

with 24 comments

I must have been about ten years old when I erased “salesman” from my list of potential future professions never to be returned.

Sunday after Sunday I had spent the entire morning knocking the doors in the area where I lived trying to convince my neighbors to buy the morning newspaper. The few that even opened usually blurted out: “Don’t you have [competing newspaper’s name]?” And every Sunday my response was the same: “No, I’m sorry”.

I knew that I was a failure. The leaflets made it clear: good sellers wouldn’t only get a decent pay; they’d also get all sorts of cool things as an added bonus. If I only shaped up, got myself a prettier, more convincing smile, I could get a bicycle! But I never got any further than a small plastic torchlight that broke after first usage.

If there ever was one person unfit to work in trade business that would be me. On the other hand it works in both directions: as bad as I am at selling, as unreceptive am I to any effort to sell me something. I’ll rather flee the shop than talk to someone approaching me offering their help. I’ll snap off sellers on the phone quicker than Mr Miyagi catches a fly.

Given this lack of experience and love for the selling business I was a little surprised that I liked Glengarry Glen Ross as much as I did.

In the Pantheon
It’s a movie that is all about selling, where we get to follow a group of jaded salesmen as they’re trying to sell some more or less useless real-estate. The stakes to succeed are high: the top seller will get a car. The worst one will be fired.

I found it standing in the DVD shelf at my mother’s place and while the cast lineup was impressive enough (Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin, Ed Harris, Kevin Spacey, all in the same movie – wow!) I was skeptic about the topic. I did recognize the title though. Hadn’t I had it recommended to me somewhere? The Filmspotting podcast perhaps?

It turned out that this was the place. In the next show a week later, they did a top five list of the best adaptations of plays where Glengarry Glen Ross was mentioned but eventually not included in the list. Not because it was bad, on the contrary: it was already in the Pantheon that includes movies that aren’t allowed to be in top lists anymore since they’ve gotten so much love already.

Selling the film
I could see why they’d put it there and now it’s my turn to try to sell it to you so you check it out if you haven’t already. This brings us to one of the many occasions when I regret that I dismissed the value of selling skills so quickly. Instead of quitting my newspaper job after a month or two I could have stayed with it, making an effort to figure out how to persuade people to buy my stuff. But alas – I didn’t. So here I am, looking for words to make it justice.

It’s fun. It’s smart. The screenplay by David Mamet has that classic vibe to it. Can you sense that this is an adaptation of something that had run on Broadway previously? Definitely. But it makes it no less of a movie. The brilliant acting makes you forget how cheap and small it is, taking place in just a couple of rooms and an outdoor setting that feels very much like a studio.

The sellers in the movie won’t hesitate a second to cross an ethical line as long as it can get them closer to what they want: a deal. I disapprove of their methods most vehemently, and I suspect they’re probably a lot closer to reality than we wish they were.

And yet there is something about those sad old guys that makes you like them and wish them luck.

I was entertained for 1 hour 40 minutes. You could be entertained too if you watch Glengarry Glen Ross!

Hm… On second thought I think I need to practice more on this routine.

Glengarry Glen Ross (James Foley, US, 1992) My rating: 4,5/5

Written by Jessica

August 8, 2012 at 10:26 pm

24 Responses

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  1. I always liked this one. And no, I never wanted to be a salesman either.

    Ratshag

    August 8, 2012 at 10:36 pm

  2. I think this sort of selling is something most people try at least once, and most people who try end up hating it. Some people have a surprisingly good knack for it though. Nevertheless, it’s not a pleasant job.

    As for GGR, it’s one of the greatest films ever made. Solid, tight direction and surprisingly decent camerawork (for a film that’s relatively isolated locationwise), strong script and very good performances from an all-around spectacular cast. Hell, Alec Baldwin almost steals the show in a glorified cameo, giving one of the greatest speeches in film history. I think every single main actor got a chance to shine at least once. They sold this one pretty damn well.

    TheBruce

    August 8, 2012 at 11:11 pm

    • There you are! You’re much better than I am at selling this! You talk like someone who knows selling!

      Jessica

      August 10, 2012 at 5:29 pm

      • Heh. I only sell my opinions these days to people who don’t want them.

        TheBruce

        August 11, 2012 at 5:44 am

  3. Oh, I have been meaning to see this movie for years but I never come around. Maybe it’s the theme, it doesn’t sound so exciting tbh. Another thing is Mamet. He’s not a favourite. Just saw State and Maine, pretty much hated it. The actors are like puppets, robots.

    Btw, I was dissapointed Incendies wasn’t in Filmspottings top 5 or in the hounorable mentions.

    Jojjenito

    August 8, 2012 at 11:11 pm

    • Hated State and Main? What’s up, Doc, with Jojje’s head?

      Henke

      August 9, 2012 at 9:26 am

    • You didn’t like Wag the Dog?
      Re: Incendies I’m not sure they’ve even watched it, sadly. I think they’ve mentioned it earlier as being on their to-watch-list. Otherwise I agree. It’s a great play adaptation. You wouldn’t even think it’s based on a play, being so cinematic.

      Jessica

      August 10, 2012 at 5:27 pm

  4. I have to admit I cannot claim to be sold on it. 🙂 That said, a wonderful angle for a review.

    stnylan

    August 9, 2012 at 12:35 am

  5. The first time I saw this, years ago, I liked it a lot. Few months ago I bought it on a whim and since then I’ve seen it another four times and it’s jumped up high on my favourite movies list. It’s just so damn brilliant and rewatchable. I think the cast and script are insanely great and there’s not a single flaw at any moment ever. Stunning movie.

    Tyler

    August 9, 2012 at 6:26 am

    • “and there’s not a single flaw at any moment ever”

      Exactly how I feel. One of the films I consider perfect or, at least, as close as you can get to that.

      TheBruce

      August 9, 2012 at 6:41 am

      • I don’t know if I’m at “perfect” yet, but yeah, give me a few more watches and I might go from a 4,5 to a 5/5.

        Jessica

        August 10, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    • I can really imagine it’s rewatchable and that it improves over time. I would gladly revisit it.

      Jessica

      August 10, 2012 at 5:25 pm

  6. Great review. I’ve always loved this movie even though I’m a terrible salesman, and hang up on salesman as soon as they start making their pitch.

    Dave Enkosky

    August 9, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    • Thanks! Yeah I think you don’t need to be a salesman to love it.

      Jessica

      August 10, 2012 at 5:23 pm

  7. I’m no salesperson either, I hate having to convince people of things they’re not interested in. But you are correct in that this is a fantastic movie, especially for us Jack Lemon-fans out there.

    Sofia

    August 9, 2012 at 2:29 pm

  8. I’m ashamed to say I have never seen this all the way through. I’ve seen bits and pieces of it and every time I start watching it from a random point I say to myself that I need to just watch it from the start sometime…And that just hasn’t happened yet. This REALLY makes me want to watch it, though. I’m going to push it to the top of my Netflix queue.

    AndyWatchesMovies

    August 9, 2012 at 8:49 pm

  9. Great post, Jessica! I’m not sure why I haven’t seen this one yet, to be honest. The cast is irresistible!

    fernandorafael

    August 10, 2012 at 6:54 am

  10. I’m surprised that’s you just getting round to this one Jessica. For some reason, I thought you’d seen it already. A 4.5 is a very respectable rating though. Im glad you liked it. I find this a real treat. Anyway, since it’s been a while, I’ll deliver a little shamless plug if that’s okay? 😉
    http://mrmarakai.wordpress.com/2012/02/17/glengarry-glen-ross/

    Mark Walker

    August 15, 2012 at 12:26 am

    • Plug on! You’d be surprised at how many movies that are considered classics that I have yet to watch.

      Jessica

      August 15, 2012 at 7:30 am


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