Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) Dir. James Foley
Much can be said and written about this movie. It excel in direction, acting and camera work. However, one question remains unanswered: where are all women?
The picture vibrates with testosterone. Since the moment Alec Baldwin shows up on the screen, there are endless references to what it takes to be a man and have balls. His character, a ruthless, cold corporate robot with a dead stare, explicitly demonstates it pulling out 2 brass balls out of his suitcase. From that moment forward, all other characters, all men exclusively, are sweating to prove their manhood. The story focuses on a group of salesmen and their ridiculous competition over who is the best of them (the first prize is a sports car that stereotypically screams of middle-age crisis). Closing a deal is a defining moment proving they are men, they can perform, they can stand up to the challenge.
So where did all women go? On the surface, it seems they create a background. They pop up in conversations or phone calls as if they were merely an addiction to the real world, which in this case equals the world of men. Yet, strangely, women (not female characters, mind you, since there are none) push the action forward. When a salesmen wants to sell land, he calls a prospect client, a wife because it’s an easy target, as the movie tries to convince us. Women do not possess the same skills in understanding the intricate rules of real estate business. They reason differently from men.
Let’s take Ricky Roma (Al Pacino), one of the best in this business. He experiences what it feels like to be up against a client’s wife. James Lingk (Jonathan Pryce), a client he convinced to buy a property over a drink the other night, backs out the next day under the pressure of his wife. Interestingly, Lingk, played by Jonathan Pryce, unlike Roma is not your typical macho man: a sheepish look on his face and shy smile say it all – he is the weakest link, a pussy whip and she, the wife, calls all the shots. Similarly, Shelley Levene (Jack Lemmon), a washed-up sales shark, is driven by the need to financially help his daughter. He is so determined that it pushes him to break the law and break into the sales office to steal the infamous Glengarry leads (the MacGuffin everybody’s after, or the golden fleece of his business, if you will). There is a stark difference between him after he closes – a proud, victorious look on his face – and him after he is unmasked as the burglar – tears in his eyes, defeat and desperation in his voice. One more example comes in the form of verbal abuse toward John Williamson (Kevin Spacey). By his fellow salesmen he is perceived as an inexperienced loser. When they want to offend him, the call him a cunt – the greatest insult in the men’s world is being a woman.
The movie is shot as a noir film. One of the elements of the genre is a femme fatal. Since there are no flesh and blood female characters, I believe all women collectively serve as a femme fatal figure. They drive men to work their guts out and even commit crime. Sadly, they can never defend themselves. They are not given any voice. Or perhaps it is men who could only handle competing with one another. Perhaps the absence of women feels more tangible than their presence.
Long days, pleasant nights,