"Glengarry Glen Ross"
Opened: Oct 8, 1992 | Rated: R
When a play is adapted to film it is either completely re-written to conform with the unspoken Hollywood style, or altered only slightly in stage direction and other technicalities.
Unfortunately, neither work as well as the producers would hope.
In the case of "Glengarry Glen Ross", the latter is true, and it didn't work as well as the producers would hope.
The screenplay was adapted by David Mamet from his own play. But the alterations are so slight that he barely takes in to account that film is an entirely different medium from the stage.
This is a surprizing disappointment, since Mamet's earlier scripts, such as "The Verdict" and "The Untouchables", have been well written.
There is an impressive ensemble cast. Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris, and Alan Arkin are real estate salesmen who have fallen on hard times due to the economy. But the top-notch performances each turn in does nothing to help the story.
Each actor provides an interesting character study, but the plot is little more than a backdrop.
The office these salesmen work for has offered them their last chance to keep their jobs in the form of a contest. The two winners get prizes, the rest get fired.
Alec Baldwin has a cameo appearance as the trouble-shooter "from downtown" who presents the this contest to the salesmen.
As an abusive, merciless clean-up man Baldwin makes an instant impression on the lackluster staff. But again, the character study is not enough.
After the presentation, Shelley Lavene (Jack Lemmon) sticks to calling old clients and telling them about the "wonderful investment opportunities available to them" in a Florida development called Glengarry Estates.
Two other salesmen (Alan Arkin and Ed Harris) leave in frustration. They end up in a restaurant, where they contemplate burglarizing the office to confuse the contest results.
Ricky Roma (Al Pacino) is the office hot-shot. He doesn't show up for the meeting, because he is certain he will win.
When the break-in is discovered the next morning tensions rise as it becomes clear that it was an inside job.
"Glengarry Glen Ross" stays interesting for about 30 minutes because the characters are so real, but the dialogue soon grinds to a halt because of the abrasive way the lines are delivered.
There isn't a single memorable line in the whole picture because the sentences are deliberately short, which on stage helps the audience not to get lost, but on film seems disconnected.
Mamet's stories almost always work well on stage, but don't translate well to screen. His "Sexual Perversity in Chicago", a brilliant one-act, became "...About Last Night", a forgettable vehicle for Rob Lowe and Demi Moore.
Mamet is a good writer, but this is not his crowning achievement. Pass on "Glengarry Glen Ross" and go see his "Speed The Plow", playing at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, before someone makes a film from that.
©1992 All Rights Reserved.