Sunday, May 31, 2015

Don't Make a Scene: Glengarry Glenn Ross


The Story:  Okay, "Go to lunch" is not up there with "I coulda been a contender," or "You talkin' to me?" or "I'm as mad as Hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!" or "Here's looking at you, kid," but it was such a pivotal moment and a shining example of what an actor can do with a line (even in the repeating of it), that I laughed out loud at it when it zipped by on the screen in the theater.

And "zipped by" is what it does in Glengarry Glen Ross—everything does in David Mamet's Pulitzer Prize winning play.  I wish I had a video of this scene to show it in action, because the stutters and stops of the written word do not do it justice, not showing the crashings, interruptions, mood-shifts and -swings  that Mamet's chattering machine-gun text provides one of the best casts assembled in the past twenty years.  This scene has most of them (but, sadly, not Ed Harris and Alec Baldwin) and everybody—to a man—is exceptional in this film, making a flowing, undulating cascade of Mamet's line-by-line schematic.  Look at the words.  They're not full sentences, with "Recipient/Subject/Verb/Prepositional Phrase" as so much movie dialogue is.  It's fractions of sentences, stray phrases, prevarications, dead-ends and cul-de-sacs of thought and utterance, and it is the job of each actor to make those fragments real, natural, provoked and also like they're being uttered for the first time.  Daunting in and of itself.  But, add everybody else into the mix—interrupting, misinterpreting and distracting, without the unnatural pauses that come from actors getting out of each other's way—and the job is as tough as...

Well, as tough as selling Glen Ross Farms.

And Spacey's way of "biting out" the "go to lunch" repetitions, in different inflections, cadences, and levels of frustration, power and desperation is an amazing feat of craft.

As Pacino said to him during Looking for Richard (after hearing Spacey's character breakdown of Buckingham): "You're a very smart man..."

And a wily actor when given good material.

The Set-Up: Another day of not-so-quiet desperation for the real-estate salesmen working for Mitch and Murray. They're struggling to close with questionable clients on second-rate developments in a dog-eat-dog competition to get the "good" leads. The Glengarry leads. The point may be moot, as those leads have been stolen in an office break-in.  As we join this scene, Ricky Roma (Al Pacino) has been swapping stories with Shelley Levene (Jack Lemmon) when Roma's most recent sale James Lingk (Jonathan Pryce) has walked into the office to back out of the deal—and the two salesmen have spun a tale where Levene is a wheeling-dealing client of Roma's (now on his way to catch a plane), in order to convince Lingk that Roma is a big time operator, with bigger fish to fry.  Meanwhile, in the back-office of Office Manager John Williamson (Kevin Spacey), George Aaronow (Alan Arkin) has been grilled by police detective Baylen (Jude Cicolella), who has been questioning all the salesmen about what they might know about the break-in.

Action!



LEVENE Rick... 


ROMA One moment, I'll be right with you. 


ROMA (to Lingk) In fact, a...one point... 


ROMA ...which I spoke to you of which... (looks around) 

ROMA I can't talk to you about here. 


Detective puts his head out of the doorway. 


BAYLEN Levene!!! 



LINGK I, I... 
ROMA Listen to me, the statute, it's for your protection. I have no complaints with that, in fact, I was a member of the board when we drafted it, so quite the opposite. It says that you can change your mind three working days from the time the deal is closed. 


BAYLEN  Levene! 

ROMA ...Which, wait a second... 

ROMA  ...which is not until the check is cashed. 

BAYLEN  Levene!!
Aaronow comes out of the Detective's office.

AARONOW I'm through, with this fucking meshugaas.  

AARONOW No one should talk to a man that way.  How are you talking to me that...?

BAYLEN  Levene!

Williamson puts his head out of the office.

AARONOW ...how can you talk to me that...that...

LEVENE (to Roma) Rick, I'm going to flag a cab.

AARONOW I didn't rob...

Williamson sees Levene.

WILLIAMSON  Shelly: get in the office.

AARONOW I didn't...why should I..."Where were you last..." 

AARONOW Is anybody listening to me...?  Where's Moss...?  Where...?

BAYLEN Levene? (to Williamson) Is this Lev...

Baylen accosts Lingk.


LEVENE (taking Baylen into the office) Ah. Ah. Perhaps I can advise you on that...
(to Roma and Lingk, as he exits)  Excuse us, will you...?


73.

AARONOW (simultaneous with Levene's speech above)...Come in here...

AARONOW I work here, I don't come in here to be mistreated...
WILLIAMSON Go to lunch, will you...

AARONOW I want to work today, that's why I came...
WILLIAMSON The leads come in, I'll let...

AARONOW ...that's why I came in.  I thought I...
WILLIAMSON Just go to lunch.

AARONOW I don't want to go to lunch.
WILLIAMSON Go to lunch, George.

AARONOW  Where does he get off to talk that way to a working man?  It's not...
WILLIAMSON (buttonholes him) Will you take it outside, we have
people trying to do business here...

AARONOW That's what, that's what, that's what I was trying to do.(pause)


AARONOW That's why I came in...I meet gestapo tac...


WILLIAMSON (going back into his office) Excuse me...

74.



AARONOW I meet gestapo tactics...I meet gestapo tactics...That's not right... 


AARONOW No man has the right to...

AARONOW "Call an attorney," that means you're guilt... you're under sus...

AARONOW "Co...," he says, "cooperate" or we'll go downtown.  

AARONOW That's not...as long as I've...

WILLIAMSON (bursting out of his office) 

WILLIAMSON Will you get out of here.  Will you get out of here.  Will you.  

WILLIAMSON I'm trying to run an office here.  Will you go to lunch?  

WILLIAMSON Go to lunch. 

WILLIAMSON Will you go to lunch?

(retreats into office)

ROMA (to Aaronow) Will you excuse...
AARONOW Where did Moss...?  I...


Glengarry GlenRoss

Words by David Mamet

Pictures by Juan Ruiz Archia and James Foley

Glenngarry Glen Ross is available on DVD from Artisan Home Entertainment