After the spiritual journey of Journal Of A Country Priest I figured that my next film needed to be a bit of an antidote – so why not the film dubbed Death of a Fucking Salesman by its cast. And what an impressive cast it is – Al Pacino, Alan Arkin, Ed Harris, Kevin Spacey, Alec Baldwin and an excellent late career performance from Jack Lemmon.
As well as the amazing ensemble cast you an absolutely electric and expletive filled script from David Mamet. Much like Aaron Sorkin and Amy Sherman-Palladino, there is a very particular cadence to Mamet’s work. It’s quick-fire, darkly comic and has a lot of people talking over each other. Watching this made me realise just how much this will have influenced The Thick Of It – some of the speeches in the latter half could have been delivered by Malcolm Tucker.
One thing that I’m going to say as both a positive and a negative, is that it is super obvious that Glengarry Glen Ross started it’s life on stage. It’s dialogue heavy, with a limited number of characters and sets. With this being a Mamet play, you’re pretty much sold that the dialogue is going to be excellent and, thanks the excellent casting, you barely notice that you’re only seeing a small group of men. However, there are times where things can feel a little bit claustrophobic – but nowhere near as claustrophobic as in Fences or in Oleanna (an adaptation of another Mamet play).
I’ve spent a long time talking about Mamet when I really should be talking about the amazing and surprising standout performance by Jack Lemmon. Watching him here, I can really see where The Simpsons got their inspiration for the sad-sack Gil. However, that completely negates the power of Lemmon’s performance which is equal parts pathetic and snakelike. Watching his altercations with Kevin Spacey felt like a masterclass in acting.
Speaking of masterclasses, Alec Baldwin really made an impact in his short time on screen. Despite there being over an hour between the end of his appearance in the film and the end of the actual film, you still feel his presence overshadowing all the action and kinda miss him when he’s gone – a bit like Mahershala Ali in Moonlight.
This really was a darkly comic treat, but I wonder how this would be changed if made nowadays. I mean I know this is all white men, but some more diversity and a few gender swaps would make for some interesting shifts in power dynamics.