Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

The art and direction of conversation fuels our daily interactions. They may consist of information relating to trivial banter, joyous or disastrous news, brainstorming a new idea, or securing a promising sale. Grammar, tone, and phrasing are just some components necessary to convey persuasion and importance to ensure a successful sale. While some are genuine in selling a product, others use manipulation and deception. Tactics used in selling a product may all be influenced by personal communication styles, product practicality and cost, work environment, and mode of pay. “Glengarry Glen Ross” is a 1992 drama directed by James Foley which explores the differing strategies and attitudes of four salesmen working in a real estate agency under extreme pressure from a more powerful company but also for themselves.

Rio Rancho Real Estates is a struggling real estate firm umbrella’d beneath a larger company named Premier Properties. Blake (Alec Baldwin), a cocky, wealthy salesman from the more esteemed business, delivers a masqueraded, vile ultimatum to the disillusioned agents. The top grossing salesman wins an El Dorado, the second best wins a set of steak knives, and the bottom two will be fired by week’s end. The top two will also gain access to the coveted leads of Glengarry Highlands and Glen Ross Farms. This prospect cultivates the salesmen to individually and sometimes collectively to achieve their goals with less-than-ideal leads via various means – night-owl home visits, a robbery, and careful coercion via alcohol and crafty wordsmith skills. Greed, family dependence, deception, jadedness, facades, ego, yet survival all fuel the salesman’s quest for success. However, they harbour desperation, loneliness, emptiness, and longing for a less arduous existence at their core.

The ensemble acting is the beating heart of this film. Al Pacino, Alan Arkin, Kevin Spacey, Alec Baldwin, Ed Harris, Jonathan Pryce, and Jack Lemmon deliver razor sharp dialogue with a mesmerizing tempo. They separately represent men with varying and sometimes polar opposite character traits. Together, they are dynamic, explosive, and clever but also vacuous. Of note, Jack Lemmon was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the role of Shelley Levine, a once prominent but now poor-selling salesman with an ill family member. He embodies many emotions so convincingly in this character, from feeling desolate, pitiful, anxious, frightened, shocked, weary, and overjoyed. Lemmon was a veteran and absolute legend at this point in his career, and mutual respect amongst the actors (especially towards Lemmon) palpably exudes from the screen.

The title refers to two important lead prospects, as mentioned previously. Their potential possession dangles in front of the salesmen, creating salivation and yearning for even more monetary gain. The whole idea of giving the most substantial leads for real estate lands to the greatest closer is preposterous. It does not allow those who are struggling to harness their potential with greater material in their initial pitch to buyers. This creates a larger wage gap and animosity between members of the same group, spiralling out of control as long as this setup continues. It is a reminder of the importance of workers’ rights. Decent humanity and protection of these rights will lead to a more productive work and home environment.


I do not own the above picture.

This blog post is a part of the Jack Lemmon Blogathon hosted by Critica Retro and Wide Screen World. Please check their pages over the next two days to check out wonderful posts about the endearing and wonderful Jack Lemmon!


20 thoughts on “Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

  1. I’ve never been interested in this movie … until now. I was in sales for two years and HATED it. What I knew about this film before now totally repelled any interest I could have in watching it. But your description of Lemmon’s performance has piqued my interest. I just might give it a chance.
    I enjoy your reviews 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Some days I dig Mamet and his unique turns of phrase, some days I don’t. I think it depends on the actors involved. I’ve never seen this, but I have no doubt these guys can make Mamet sound like Shakespeare.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Hey! I recently saw this film and am back to “compare notes”. I agree the cast is crucial to this film, and it is incredible! (A bit hard to watch Kevin Spacey, though…) Loved Al Pacino in this role, and Jack Lemmon is fabulous. These men did not seem to be acting – I believed they were these characters.

        A powerful, unforgettable film, especially when you consider practically the whole thing takes place in that crummy little office.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Awesome!! I wrote it pre-Kevin Spacey fiasco, and would have found a rewatch difficult with his role. Jack Lemmon’s character is so sad and pitiful, and he is so believable. Al Pacino was excellent as well.

        I also LOVE films that take place in one setting like this one. Really forces more character exploration and development. 12 Angry Men is also a great example!


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