Released today thirty years ago, Tom Jolevy takes a look back at Glenary Glenn Ross, a major lesson in screen acting…
The lights go out, the movie turns and everyone in the cinema (except for that guy) is silent in anticipation of what’s to come. The film must then control its audience.
Cohesion between writer, director, and actors is enhanced by other factors that can make or break a movie. Some films may rely on large still pieces, special effects, and wide scale and range. You might call them crutches that are necessary for certain types. Filmmakers can also seek to manipulate audiences through careful editing, emotionally provocative music, or twisted plots.
But what about when you take a simple idea, one day in the office of a real estate peddler, confined to a handful of monotonous, intimate settings and put it all on your team? It’s a bit like theater actually and we’ve seen this approach on cinema screens many times.
Sydney Lumet’s iconic masterpiece, 12 angry men He just did this. The crew of the honorary jury is confined to one room, as they deliberate the sentencing of a complex murder case. Adapted from Teleplay, the classic Lumet, often regarded as one of the greatest films of all time, required several things. He needed exceptional script (from Reginald Rose), and exceptional direction, but like anything else, he needed staff that could build tension, create emotion, and keep your attention.
No car chases aside, it’s entirely based on a ton of unseen elements, engaging dialogue and the likes of Henry Fonda, Jack Klugman, and Lee J. Cope who deliver exceptional performances. The intimate nature of the film has lended itself very well to versions of the theatrical tale.
This theatrical feeling often comes from translating plays into film. Among them is a movie released today thirty years ago, Hat Glen Rossadapted from David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, came with an all-star cast and remained largely faithful to the theatrical version (a big difference was made with the inclusion of a new character, portrayed by Alec Baldwin).
The plot sees a group of struggling salesmen (except Richard Roma of Al Pacino, in a hotline) on a picket, about to receive a visit from someone from the head office (Baldwin). We don’t get too deep into most of these characters, beyond their style, feelings, and approach to work, but Shelley ‘The Machine’ Levene (Jack Lemmon), we find out, is saddled with debts and her daughter’s hospital bills. When the office is robbed, the police begin interviewing the sales team off-screen, while the others deliberate on what might happen, or discuss their work.
Hat Glen Ross It has a plot that reads fairly simply, but the strength lies in the great writing, precise direction, and first menu at the top of the form. Mamet’s gifts as a writer are well known. A playwright who has an inherent talent for creating interesting dramas with sharp, sharp dialogue.
There is a distinct spinning feel to the film. The main cast of Lemon, Pacino, Baldwin, Kevin Spacey, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin and Jonathan Pryce shine uniformly, but the film breaks them into groups, jumping back and forth between a number of conversations between 2-3 characters.
Among those, we have Lemon, Spacey, Arkin, and Harris, while Pacino works his salesman’s magic on Jonathan Pryce after he meets him at the restaurant across from the office. The big piece of the movie is a burglary that we never see. It’s all about acting.
A lot is often said about Alec Baldwin’s cameo. The fact that it was created for the movie makes it as close to a special effect as the movie. Baldwin is indeed a resounding presence, playing the epitome of toxic masculinity. He has the most quoted lines in the movie. As a character, it is purely cinema.
Pacino pushes Baldwin close to cinematic greatness. Roma as an outspoken, direct, dualistic, charismatic and charismatic character. Pacino can release a lot of bravado in roles, and this allows him to express his desire for content (brilliantly).
Ed Harris plays a stressed-out, cranky, and pent-up wrath of the world. A frustrated salesman on the verge of moral collapse. It’s a great performance from Harris, who has always been able to convey complex rage very well.
Meanwhile, neurosis, skepticism, and inability to express his thoughts, Alan Arkin is ideally represented as an effectively annoying slime ball, doing his two-faced house routine with aplomb.
Colorful characters can expertly take you to life even now, but in a story like this you need an emotional anchor. This comes in the form of Levin Lemon. He’s a character that we feel has a moral foundation. The nice, straight old schoolboy, who appreciates the old ways of selling, before the late ’80s crept in from the hustle and bustle of Wall Street.
Levin’s growing desperation imposes his hand and distorts his moral compass as he makes an unfortunate decision. Levine wears his experience on his face. He is almost held in high esteem for being old, like anything else, by Rome in particular.
Jack Lemon has always been loved. He plays the friendliest character too, in a picture where Harris, Spacey, Baldwin and Pacino are supposed to be more obnoxious (to varying degrees), we need a friendlier presence.
Plus, lemon gives Levin a lot of warmth. He’s an internationalist, but he can still find contentment by taking down Williamson (Spacey) a peg or two. Levine eventually lost in the film is the sad ending of his tale. Although, in one of his last great roles, Lemmon steals the movie in a cage.
James Foley’s masterpiece sure makes a perfect example of some of the best acting of that decade, in a film with such simple elements. Many others have tried this simple, semi-theatrical approach since then, especially engaging, if somewhat forgettable. Humans.
What are your thoughts about Hat Glen Ross? What other films have the same theatrical stage, but a cinematic feel like this? Tell us on our social channels @flickeringmyth.
Tom Jolliffe is an award-winning screenwriter and avid film lover. He has a number of movies on DVD/VOD around the world and several releases in 2022, including Renegades (Lee Majors, Danny Trejo, Michael Pare, Tiny Lister, Nick Moran, Patsy Kensit, Ian Ogilvy, and Billy Murray), Funnel, when Darkness Falls and War of the Worlds: Attack (Vincent Reagan). Find more information on the best personal site you’ll ever see…https://www.instagram.com/jolliffeproductions/