Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Glengarry Glen Ross
"You see this watch?" Blake asks. "That watch costs more than your car. I made $970,000 last year. How much you make?" I chuckle when I think of that amount: $970,000. Granted, that's a lot of money and probably more than I'll ever see in my life, but I would expect a wheeler and dealer like Blake to be making millions. It gets me thinking. Richard Fuld, the last chairman and CEO of Lehman Brothers, received $484 million in salary and bonuses between 2000 and 2008 when the financial giant went bankrupt. In testimony before Congress, he defended that compensation while saying he accepted "full responsibility" for the company's downfall. Say what you will about Blake, but at least he seems good at his job. It just goes to show that the corporate environment of greed and corruption depicted in Glengarry Glen Ross has not only survived the 20 years since the movie's release, it has flourished.
But greed and corruption are not the only traits on display in Glengarry Glen Ross. What's also tangible is the pathetic desperation of these salesmen. These are men who will do and say anything to make a sale, and that includes lying and stealing. There aren't any murders depicted in the story, but killing isn't really necessary here; these men's souls have already been destroyed by their jobs.
The title of Glengarry Glen Ross refers to two sets of properties for the salesmen sell, but another effective name for the movie could have been "The Weak and the Greedy." Of all the salesmen, only Aaronow comes close to being a decent human being, but he's a total puff ball and pushover. At times, we feel sorry for Levine; he often looks like a man ready to break down and cry, and he makes frequent references to his hospitalized daughter, but whenever he gets any sort of power or success, he rubs it in people's faces and becomes as big of a prick as Roma, whose success also allows him to be a conniving jerk. When his client comes to the office the day after closing the sale, Roma blatantly lies to his face and does his best to confuse the poor man. You also feel a bit bad for Williamson, a guy just trying to his job, and these salesmen treat him like crap, calling him a glorified "secretary," but he takes joy in watching this bunch being humiliated.
Under the trivia section of the Internet Movie Database, it's listed that the actors in Glengarry Glen Ross referred to the movie as "Death of a Fucking Salesman," and that's a good way to look at it. Like the Arthur Miller play, it's about salesmen trying to get ahead in their profession, but instead of a sad tragedy about the failure of the American Dream, it's an in-your-face rage about its perversion.