Action movies wish they had this much testosterone and that fight and chase scenes were as exciting as the verbal wars being fought in David Mamet’s brilliant adaptation of his Pulitzer Prize-winning play.
This film is angry and sad, funny and mean, satirical and honest.
Obviously what truly set the film and play apart is Blake. Created for the film, Blake sets the table in the harshest terms and we have been given soooooo many to use in every day life — Who hasn’t responded to some asshole with “Fuck you, that’s my name,” and even LeBron James was brilliantly ridiculed with “Why doesn’t LeBron drink coffee?” “Cause coffee is for closers only.”
Blake’s speech has become a staple on the audition circuit, out there being mangled by has beens and wannabes, with some somedays thrown. His eight minutes is the essence of the sales game, eat or be eaten. If one were to stop the film at that moment, while they would miss more brilliance to come, they would have had a fine meal.
And so Alec Baldwin comes in and lights up the screen and disappears, leaving us with Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Jack Lemmon, Kevin Spacey, Jonathan Pryce and Al Pacino, what an asshole, we get this shit, fuck you, I’m waiting for the new leads.
I don’t think there is a false note in this whole film, even Pacino’s antics are perfect.
Aside from Roma and Blake, all the characters display strength and weakness, can revel in their pathetic lives.
If seven people were asked who performed best, we may get seven different answers.
Director James Foley had a pretty easy job here (if anyone, ANYONE, tries to apply the Auteur Theory to Foley on this film I will kick him in the balls), place the camera where he wanted it, say action and get the fuck out of the way.
With Mamet’s words and these performers, if it weren’t so bleak, it would be mentioned more often as a great film.
I think Glengarry Glen Ross is overshadowed by Death of A Salesman, and while they share a profession and a direness, Glengarry ravages the business with these ravaged men, where Salesman is just a ravaged man. Hell, Willy Loman is what Shelley Levene wishes he was.
While Puritans may carp at the profane language, they are missing the larger point of the play/film and fuck them anyway, who needs ’em.
The film is not perfect, but the performances are. Mamet’s adaptation actually adds to the brilliance of his play and raises the stakes.
This is a haphazard OP, but all you all have it and discuss.
…. The fucking leads are weak? You’re weak.
Personally I’m not a fan of Mamet in general, even more so nowadays, but with a cast like they had here, I can’t deny how well the whole thing works as the actors really pull a lot out of the rather limited dialogue and give the film some depth and an edge that could be lacking otherwise, as I’ve witnessed in some stage productions of his plays.
Are you referring to the film or the script? Mamet didn’t direct this…James Foley did.
Mamet is weak.
Really, Pierre, gees.
Pierre, are you asking me? If so, I’m referring to the script. I don’t really like Mamet’s writing generally. I don’t have a problem with Foley as he did some fine work with After Dark, My Sweet and At Close Range. He got some good performances in those films as well.
It’s hard to believe Foley directed this movie. He is a pretty shitty director.
Then again, great script and great cast. would have been tough to screw it up.
@Greg, no I was asking Uli³Cain – it seemed like I needed a little clarification. I wasn’t trying to do anything other than figure out what was being said. Is it a comparison from the film’s script to the script on the stage or is it the film to the play?
It’s not a comparison at all, Foley is the ‘director,’ but his role this way down the line of importance here. Mamet is first, then the actors, then Foley.
Truly, if anyone wants to say that Foley did any thing more than not fuck it up, I think they are overstating his importance with this project.
(With that, Foley did a fine job)
A great piece of writing which managed to survive well to the screen and make for an explosive film.
If there ever was a line that sums up capitalism it is: “You see pal, that’s who I am, and you are NOTHING.”
Baldwin’s finest hour, those minutes.
Has Spacey ever been better?
Has Mamet ever been better?
Baldwin’s finest hour has yet to come. His finest minutes were riding a snowplow on the roof of the builing acrss the street from “The Late Show with David Letterman”
Spacey was at his best in Clint’s egregious underrated film of “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”
Mamet has always been the same hateful sub-Belasco slug.
I think it’s granted that Mamet has a high opinion of himself, but the fact is the fucker can write. Whether it’s plays, prose, poetry, essays, he can write.
It’s like Streisand, she can sing.
I think Foley is pretty talented and his films are interesting at least up to Glengarry Glenross (except for Who’s That Girl, which I think Foley did as a favor to Sean Penn, who’s a friend)
He actually got his break because Hal Ashby walked into a party one night right while one of Foley’s student films was been projected on the wall. At the time Ashby had just formed a production company that had a distribution deals with one of the studios, so he hired Foley to write/direct a film. By the time Foley had actually written a film, Ashby’s company had already lost its production deal, but the association with Ashby ended up being enough to get him a job directing Reckless.
His upcoming film Mary, Mother of Christ (with Pacino as Herod), sounds interesting.
Brassballs is my password
I always wonder what kind of sparks would have been generated if Ricky Roma had been in the room when Blake did his thing. And Jack Lemmon was superb.
yeah, a Blake v Roma would be interesting
Roma had $90,000 in sales so I don’t think that there would have been a confrontation with Blake. I think which is why Roma was not, could not, present at the meeting.
“And Jack Lemmon was superb.”
you could tell he enjoyed swearing his ass off too ;-)
I wish he took on more roles like that.
He was great in the 12 Angry Men remake too.
Not really consistent with Roma’s character, though. He’s more of a flatterer and a manipulator. Not the sort of person likely to go mano-a-mano (side note: I actually think Pacino’s Roma is the weakest of the major performances in the film).
I love the rhythms and cadences of Mamet’s dialogue. At times it amounts to outright versification. Blake:
“I’m here from Mitch and Murray, and
I’m here on a mission of mercy.”
Nowadays the guys Mamet is writing about in this play have spent the last decade or so selling subprime mortgages and credit default swaps instead of real estate.
“ies to apply the Auteur Theory to Foley on this film I will kick him in the balls), place the camera where he wanted it, say action and get the fuck out of the way.”
True, but i remember the lighting being cool in places. i think he made the most of the minimal setting too. which, of course, he deserves at least some credit for.
as to Glenngary Glennross, I love it. When Mamet directs his own work though, I find it frustratingly bland- not austere, minimal, or calculated… just… bland.
and sorry to digress. . . but people who don’t think much of Mamet’s politics should check out Christopher Hitchens review of Mamet’s latest diatribe (NY times sunday books i believe, sorry no link). It’s opening line salvo is great. I would pay 20 dollars to watch a Mamet Hitchens debate (clash of the cocksure?), though my gut feeling is that it would not be a fair fight,as Mamet’s ideas seemed formed in some sort of sycophant filled echo chamber, where Hitchens is a practiced debater.
I really love this film. It’s the only Mamet written piece I’ve experienced though. Would anyone recommend which of his works I should look into next?
Oleanna, Spartan, Homicide, State & Main, etc.
And read the plays.
wilson ;) if he’s written something else like that, i want to know.
Riss, you mean you haven’t seen any other films that Mamet has written the screenplays for, or just that you haven’t seen any of the other adaptations of his stage plays? He wrote Ronin, Wag the Dog, The Edge, Hoffa, We’re No Angels, Things Change, The Untouchables, Rafaelson’s remake of The Postman Always Rings Twice, among others.
American Buffalo is probably his greatest work, but read it or see it on stage (avoid the film adaptation at all costs). As far as Mamet directing his own work, see House of Games.
David Mamet’s Right-Wing Conversion
David Mamet Explains His Shift to the Right
Warning: may cause nausea.
Matt, I hadn’t realized that Mamet had worked on the screen play for Ronin. But I just did a search on IMDB and realize that besides Ronin and Glengarry, I haven’t seen any other films for which Mamet has a credit, so really anything he’s worked on I would be interested in. But I suspect it’s really the more tight ensemble stuff that could have been adapted from a play that I’m looking for.
@Matt: I love House of Games … why? Hard to say.
I’m a moderate fan of Mamet. He has a somewhat singular voice in that it’s pretty recognizable, but he’s wildly inconsistent. I loved Glengarry though … and Edmond was interesting to a point (Stuart Gordon had an intriguing run with this).
I actually think of all of his plays that have been adapted, Edmond best captures the essence of its source. American Buffalo is way, way off. About Last Night is a neutered version of “Sexual Perversity in Chicago”. Oleanna I’m conflicted about.