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Glengarry Glen Ross (rewatch)

Posted by martinteller on April 29, 2012

When I last watched this in 2005, I said “I don’t know if I’d watch it again…. I’ve seen it too many times.”  It took 7 years, but I did finally watch it again (for what is probably at least the 10th time) and although I wouldn’t say it gets better every time, it doesn’t get any worse.  Mamet’s dialogue hasn’t lost any of its magical punch.  Such a wonderful dance of words, with all those distinct inflections and pauses and odd turns of phrase (“You would know if you ever spent a day in your life”) that sound wrong but so, so right.  And such delightful bursts of profanity, and even the names are memorable.  Bruce and Harriet Niborg (or “Harriet and Blah-Blah Niborg”), James Lingk, Mitch and Murray, and of course the notorious “Patel”.

And it’s delivered by one of the best ensembles ever put together.  Alec Baldwin’s brief appearance is rightfully lauded and remembered for its viciousness, and Jack Lemmon turns in possibly the greatest performance of his career.  Just the scene where he realizes he’s busted but he’s still squirming around in his lies is masterful.  All the others are pitch-perfect as well… Spacey, Harris, Arkin, Pryce.  It’s a wonderful cast.  And obviously, overwhelmingly male.  This is a film about defining manhood in the modern world, or at least in this corner of it.  Your only measure of worth as a man is your ruthlessness, your willingness to screw over the other guy by any means necessary.  Baldwin asserts his masculinity with the value of his car and his watch.  And the most incapable of deception is the most emasculated.  “I can’t negotiate” he says almost apologetically, as if unworthy of his gender.  And when hostilities arise and the profanities start flying, there’s usually a denigrating remark about one’s sexuality (“You fairy”) thrown in the mix.  Survival in this world means defending your manhood in no uncertain terms, and lording it over others.

Done with neo-noir style — the cool jazz and empty rain-slicked streets and bright colors in dark places — it’s an experience well worth returning to, with a screenplay that’s endlessly quotable.  Rating: Great


2 Responses to “Glengarry Glen Ross (rewatch)”

  1. Danny said

    Haven’t seen this in ages, but your screenshot here rocks. I’ll have to look it up again soon.

  2. […] 82. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992, James Foley) […]

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