The movie tells the story of a small, competitive real-estate firm operating in Chicago, Illinois. The firm’s team of salesmen is constantly at one another’s throats thanks to the intense workplace atmosphere created by their boss, Blake.
Blake runs a tight ship and has no patience for mediocre performance. When the office holds a sales contest, Blake announces that the prize for third place when it comes to closing home deals is finding a new place to work.
Competition between the people on the sales floor is even more intense than ever, especially when all the best sales leads are stolen along with a good amount of office equipment. The team is forced to endure the competition without any of the usual tools at their disposal, all while trying to figure out who happens to be behind the thefts.
The sales team in “Glengarry Glen Ross” is comprised of Shelley Levene (Al Pacino), Ricky Roma (Jack Lemmon), Dave Moss (Ed Harris), and George Aaronow (Alan Arkin). Blake (Alec Baldwin) takes the helm of the real-estate firm as the hard-nosed, perfectionist boss.
Blake himself is a charismatic personality who lives by the old sales adage to always be closing. He has no tolerance for employees who manage to generate interest without closing the deal and getting their client to sign on the dotted line and buy a new home.
Blake makes it obvious that he cares more about making a sale by any means necessary than ensuring that their clients end up in homes they can afford and which suit their needs, causing some moral conflict for the other characters.
When the robbery occurs, everything in the orderly real-estate office is thrown into utter chaos. It’s obvious that the robber is one of the sales team who happened to decide to cut down the competition in the most ruthless way possible.
Baldwin may not be a main character, but his presence provides some much-needed structure and inspiration to the film.
The most notable aspect of “Glengarry Glen Ross” is the dialog.
Throughout the film, the conversations between the characters are both intense and realistic, laced with profanity and intense accusations that characterize the tense atmosphere of the sales world.
It becomes clear within a few minutes of the beginning of the movie that making the sale is the center of the universe for those who work in the office. Even the office manager, Williamson, is drawn into the obsession with making a sale and proving that he can do more than push papers and fetch coffee.
“Glengarry Glen Ross” may be a drama, but it comes off as a comedy throughout, creating an interesting contrast between the somewhat dark subject matter and the uproarious delivery.
From the sales team to the managers, everyone in the office has such an intense personality and their own way of spinning the actual events of the story that the movie feels more like a stage play at certain points.
The entire script is fast-paced, designed to keep audiences guessing about the next act. Even moments of intense dialog are punctuated by loud, raucous events, such as a subway train that blows past at inopportune moments, shaking the characters out of their malaise.
Director James Foley may not have gone on to be one of the biggest names in film, but he will nonetheless be remembered for this understated, underrated piece of brilliance. “Glengarry Glen Ross” tells the tale of the everyman in a chaotic work environment, crushed between a dwindling desire to do what’s right and the external pressure to succeed at all costs.
In a world of unrealistic expectations and a constant supply of younger, more talented agents ready and willing to replace them, the “Glengarry Glen Ross” team is forced to outwit and outperform for their very survival.
The movie accurately yet fairly portrays the cutthroat nature of the sales industry and draws some interesting parallels between the real estate market of the 1990s and the one today.
Although this film was made more than two decades ago, its concerns and presentations are perfectly modern and will appeal to the contemporary work force set. In fact, “Glengarry Glen Ross” could be considered an interesting history lesson that explains many of the real-estate foibles that have occurred today, all while providing solid entertainment.