As a feminist, I normally like to rail against movies that only feature males in lead roles (or where the female leads have to disrobe or embody and exude the bitch quality). However, this movie is an exception to my usual protests. The main characters in this movie are conniving, thieving, angry, sociopathic, self pitying, and would steal their own grandmother’s life savings at first chance. I say, just this once, let these characters be inhabited by males!
The movie opens with two real estate salesmen, Shelley Levene (played by Jack Lemmon) and Dave Moss (played by Ed Harris) complaining to their boss, John Williamson (played by Kevin Spacey in his usual aloof, angry, arrogant role) about their meager, “weak” and unsubstantial sales “leads.”
Alec Baldwin appears early in the film, but only briefly, in the role of “Blake,” the tough, rough-talking, cigarette-smoking sales manager from “downtown.” Blake to Shelley Levene:
“Put that coffee down. That coffee’s for closers only.”
When asked what his name is by Moss, Blake responds “I drive an $80,000 BMW, that’s what my name is.” He claims to have made $970,000 the previous year, further states that his watch costs more than Moss’ car and he doesn’t care if any of them are a good father or a nice guy. It’s a performance that Ben Affleck would attempt to replicate just eight years later, marginally, as the same type of sales pusher in “Boiler Room.”(2000) Baldwin is the original. His mantra – Always Be Closing. “You close or you hit the bricks.”
I’m sold. This is the best scene in the movie, and one of my favorite all-time movie scenes. A bigger, badder prick you will never find! I also like the brass balls that he pulls out of his briefcase and uses as a demonstration prop. Priceless. Did Baldwin keep those brass balls? I wonder.
Closers get the best leads, the Glengarry leads. Enter Ricky Roma (played by Al Pacino). He does so well that he wasn’t even subjected to the Blake/Baldwin rant. He was at a bar somewhere drinking and pontificating about life and closing with a big fish. He’s got a broken moral compass and he’s proud of it. He’s a hot head and in love with the “F” bomb.
Even though this is clearly an ensemble cast, I think of Shelley Levene as the main character. His glory sales days are well behind him, and now he’s forced to try to make a living from dribble leads. He negotiates with Williamson to get the leads to no avail. He’s certainly desperate for the right leads and the money as his daughter is in the hospital. Heart wrenching. Harris and Alan Arkin have nice turns as less-desperate but more deviant co-workers.
There’s a robbery. There’s client badgering. There are lies and pressure applied.
David Mamet wrote the screenplay based on his play. It probably did work effectively as a play, with dramatic lighting and sparse settings and character-driven plot. I certainly had sympathy for the Levene character, and that character was aptly constructed to evoke such, and the movie is fine as a brief character study into the lives of men that we have no desire to relate to or emulate.
It’s a good movie to watch on a boring Sunday, if only for that precious scene by Baldwin.
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