“Your name is “you’re wanting”, and you can’t play the man’s game, you can’t close them, and then tell your wife your troubles. ‘Cause only one thing counts in this world: get them to sign on the line which is dotted.”
Screenplay written by David Mamet and based on his own play performed 8 years prior, this is a film that has always been known as one of the must-see-movies from Pacino’s canon. I happened to see the stage play advertised countless times when I first started travelling to London – though never managed to watch it. The London production of the time had Jonathan Pryce, Aiden Gillen (Carcetti from The Wire) and Anthony Flanagan (Cop Tony, from Series 1 of Shameless) and was before The Old Vic’ put on Mamet’s other fantastic play Speed-The-Plow. A play I did see (Spacey and Goldblum … incredible). Interesting because Jonathan Pryce was in this movie too – as more of a side character – while in the London adaptation he plays Jack Lemmons role, Shelley. More background? Alan Alda, Jeffrey Tambor (from Arrested Development) and Liev Schrieber (from Wolverine) starred in the Bradway 2005 version. Liev Schreiber and Aiden Gillen both played [in the movie] Pacino’s role – Ricky Roma.
What I reckon …
It is set over two acts and over two days. The first act is this moody evening while the second act is in the morning. The sales guys sit in a dull office and they are called together for a meeting with an external motivator – Blake, played by Alec Baldwin [a character not in the play]. He gives them an ultimatum – close deals, that night, or be fired. Only two of the group of real-estate agents will get the prized ‘Glengarry’ leads … while everyone else will be fired. Amongst a range of characters, we have Shelley (Lemmon), an older man who has not had a great run of sales in recent months, while we also have Moss (Ed Harris) and George (Alan Arkin) trying to find a way to keep there job. Then we have cock-sure Ricky Roma (Pacino) who appears to be closing deals easily – a real pro. The statement of ‘Close, or be fired’ by Blake does make me think of The Apprentice … do you think Alan Sugar and the BBC may have watched this film shortly before making the TV series?
Considering Blake is not in the play, it is incredible to see such a scene play out – Baldwin just insults and slams every agent in the room. explaining to them how sales work: “Always be closing, ABC” and “Attention – do I have your attention?”, decision, interest, action. Funnily enough I worked in sales for a short while and these same tactics are employed – I’m pretty sure we even laughed about the similarities while being trained.
Whats incredible is the speed of the delivery – its non-stop. Every line is clear and succinct, showing caffeine-high employees working too hard to satisfy bosses who we never see. Each character has a motive and a plan to get money – reflecting this competetive attitude of masculitinity. Shelley, a character with few saving graces, seems out of his depth and he sinks exceptionally low to stay a man not lose his job. Masculinity and what it means to be a man is often a theme in Mamet’s plays – and this is no exception.
Obviously the agents are the lead roles, but there are some subtle performaces by Spacey and Pryce on the side. Kevin Spacey plays Williamson, a character despised by the lower ranks. He has a complex outlook – holding the keys to the guys future. Williamson gives the leads to the agents to help them out – so this hatred stems from a frustration towards the power Williamson has over them. Pryce plays a minor role of James Lingk – he is easily manipulated and Ricky Roma mainpulates him for everything he is worth. Luckily, Lingk’s wife intervenes and stops him from spending any money – but it is fascinating to see how the sharks simple eat him up with no thought to his family or future.
This is a great film – but it relies on the actors and the delivery, which is perfect in this case. To go against it, you have to consider how it translates as a film. It is still set in one room (pretty much) and is short … so, you have to question whether its initial run on stage is how it is meant to be seen. Then again … no Alec Baldwin character, Blake (seriously, find the single scene he is in that creates the tension many movies die for), making this a very unique version. But, as a stage play you wouldn’t have the actors either. Ultimately, no Pacino.