Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Glengarry Glen Ross: Special Edition

Playwright, screenwriter, and filmmaker David Mamet is famous for his hyper-real dialogue, spoken by earthy characters who bounce mundane and colorful expressions off each other with robotic precision. When he directs his own plays and screenplays, Mamet tends to accentuate the abstraction of his language, creating an effect that can be musical, comical, or tense, but is rarely realistic. Director James Foley's movie adaptation of Mamet's Pulitzer-winning play Glengarry Glen Ross comes closest to creating an intersection between Mamet's world and the real world. Set in and around a real-estate office, the film stars Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris, and Alan Arkin as dirt-peddlers of varying skill and success, dealing with a useless office manager (Kevin Spacey) and a hard-nosed motivational speaker (Alec Baldwin) over a 24-hour period in which deals are made, deals go sour, and a stack of priceless leads disappears. In play form, Glengarry Glen Ross consisted of two acts: a three-scene first act, and one long scene for the second. The film adds a few scenes—most famously, Baldwin's cruelly electric speech and Lemmon's excruciating sales calls—and shuffles together the first act's scenes, periodically losing momentum along the way. But at the same time, Foley pumps air and energy into a set-bound piece, letting his camera swoop dramatically around the cramped office, and occasionally stepping outside into real New York locations, drenched in real rain. Foley coordinates the movements and pitch of a high-powered cast, and skillfully avoids the staccato monotone that Mamet often applies to his own work. Mamet gets good mileage out of his method, but Foley offers more hard sock and less emotional reserve. As with Artisan's recent Reservoir Dogs special edition (another 10-year marker), the Glengarry set features short-but-comprehensive, scene-specific commentaries by the cast and crew, rather than a repetitive, pause-filled, full-length track. It also includes two well-shot and well-edited half-hour documentaries about Lemmon and the art of the sale, respectively. And the actual movie still works like gangbusters, thanks to Foley and the cast's smart evocation of Mamet's absurdist themes: the connection between persuasiveness and manliness, and the frustrations of a system that gives all the breaks to people who are already on top, while the strugglers on a bad streak can't even imagine how they'll pull out. But Glengarry Glen Ross gets most of its legs from the acting and the dialogue, which has such a rhythmic grace that scenes from the movie can be played and replayed with no loss of thump.


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