47 Years of Student Run Cinema
Student Film Society of the Year 2002, 2005, 2006
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James Foley, USA 1992, 100 minutes
It's hell being an estate agent, especially when the outfit you work for is phoney and they won't give you any of the information collected about potential customers. This is the premise of David Mamet's highly successful stage play, turned here into a raw and claustrophobic drama by a truly top-notch cast.
The salesmen of Premier Properties are used to living on their wits. They know all the tricks in the book to con the unsuspecting public out of their savings. When Blake (Alec Baldwin) arrives from head office with the precious new sales leads, they learn that their only prospect of ever getting to see them is to close deals without having them. Trapped in this impossible situation, veteran Shelley "The Machine" Levine (Jack Lemmon) turns to reliving past glories while Moss (Ed Harris) and Aaronow (Alan Arkin) rail against the firm and plot to steal the leads and sell them to their rivals. Only Ricky Roma (Al Pacino) seems to have any hope of succeeding as he cajoles and bullies his spineless "prospect" (Jonathan Pryce).
This is a film where there really isn't anyone to like, but much to be understood and pitied. The salesmen have been drained of all integrity by the cruelty and deceit which their job requires while their hapless victims seem merely pathetic.
Mamet's script is all important; these people use words as weapons while their true thoughts and feelings leak out around the edges. Both their sales patter and their aggressive exchanges amongst each other are as convincing as they are appalling. Lemmon makes Levine's desperation painfully clear as Levine realises that he's coming to the end of his working life with nothing to show for it. Meanwhile there is an awful fascination in watching the super-confident Roma (Pacino) crumble as his last hope of a sale vanishes. In the end it is the sheer quality of the script and acting which makes this drama so compelling. They bring alive the individual suffering as the tough exterior of the real estate salesmen cracks and their fragile world unravels.
Review by Alison Dalzell
Taken from EUFS Programme 1997-98