Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
Frequently Asked Questions
No. It is based on a 1982 play of the same name by David Mamet. The play received its initial theatrical run at the Cottesole Theatre in London on September 21, 1983, where it was directed by Bill Bryden. It premiered in the United States at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago on February 6, 1984, and moved to Broadway on March 25 of that year, running for 378 performances at the John Golden Theatre, directed by Gregory Mosher. The Broadway production received the 1983 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play, the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the 1984 Tony Award for Best Actor (Joe Mantegna). It was also nominated for the 1984 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Play, and the 1984 Tony Awards for Best Play, Best Director and another Best Actor nomination (Robert Prosky).
The original British cast featured: Derek Newark as Shelley Levene; Jack Shepherd as Richard Roma; Trevor Ray as Dave Moss; James Grant as George Aaronow; Karl Johnson as John Williamson; Tony Haygarth as James Lingk; and John Tams as Detective Baylen. The original American cast featured: Robert Prosky as Shelley Levene; Joe Mantegna as Richard Roma; James Tolkan as Dave Moss; Mike Nussbaum as George Aaronow; J.T. Walsh as John Williamson; William Petersen as James Lingk; and Jack Wallace as Detective Baylen.
For the most part, the film follows the play exactly. Most of the dialogue from the film is taken verbatim from the play, most of the characters in the film come directly from the play and much of the narrative comes directly from the play.
There are a couple of differences however. Most obviously, the film contains a character not in the play - Blake (played by Alec Baldwin). Mamet (who also wrote the script for the film) created this character and the "Coffee's For Closers" scene to give the sales force some added pressure in their attempts to close sales; it is in this scene where it is revealed that the lowest ranking salesman will be fired, thus ensuring they have a more important motivation than simply wanting to get commission.
Another addition to the film is the scene where Levene (Jack Lemmon) goes to see Larry Spannel (Bruce Altman) to try to close a deal. A few of Levene's phone conversations are also longer than in the film.
The setting of the film also differs from the play, as does the time of year in which it is set. The play is set in Chicago in midwinter; the film is set in New York in the Fall.
The very end of the film is also slightly different to the play. In the play, Roma flatters Levene and suggests that they work together (as he does in the film). At this point in the play, Levene enters Williamson's office, and as soon as he is inside, Roma reveals that the only reason he suggested he and Levene work together was so he could get half of Levene's sales. In the film however, after Levene enters Williamson's (Kevin Spacey) office, Roma (Al Pacino) makes no such revelation, and his flattery of Levene is left open-ended as to whether or not he was being sincere.
You can find the entire play here.
The title of the play and film comes from two different sets of leads which are mentioned.
'Glengarry' refers to 'Glengarry Highlands', which are the properties to be sold using the much coveted new leads which Blake delivers to the office.
'Glen Ross' refers to 'Glen Ross Farms' which was land that Moss (Ed Harris) and Aaronow (Alan Arkin), and presumably some of the others, had great success selling at some stage in the past (Moss mentions it to Aaronow in the coffee shop).
Although there is an element of debate amongst fans as to the exact nature of the work, most seem to subscribe to the notion that Levene, Roma, Moss and Aaronow are not entirely legitimate real estate agents. The name of the company for which they work is Premier Properties (seen on the door several times as characters come and go); "a real estate office full of shabby, desperate swindlers - low-life ''businessmen'' who pass off swampland as the buy of a lifetime" (quoted here). As such, it seems as if the main task of the characters is to try to sell what is described in director James Foley's DVD commentary as "swamp land in Florida" for far more money than it's worth. The land is real, however, it is most likely worthless (cannot be built on or developed in any way etc), and in promoting it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that can change lives they are in fact con-men; the con is not in the fact that the purchase itself is fake, but in that the quality of that which is purchased is considerably lower than advertised. The film is set in New York, yet the land is in Florida, as this ensures the potential buyer cannot go to see it prior to purchase. Only after they buy do they realize that it's wet-land or something similar, and that they have been duped. This is why the sales force lie about who they are, who they work for and why they're in town every time they try to close a sale; because they're trying to hide the fact that what they're selling is absolutely worthless; they make out they're from a large, well known company so as to enhance the legitimacy of their claims.
More specifically, in the film, they are engaged in what is referred to in the industry as cold calling; where they literally ring random people and try to talk them into buying the land; oftentimes people who have no interest whatsoever in making such a purchase. Spannel mentions that his wife filled out a form over a year ago, and that they've been plagued ever since. Obviously, Premier Properties gets its leads from forms, competitions, surveys, registration of products etc, and these leads are then randomly given out as potential buyers to the sales force at some point in the future, without the customer actively seeking contact.
However, if they are not entirely kosher real estate agents, and if they are trying to sell genuine, if worthless, land, who owns the land in the first place? Most likely the company that employs them, Mitch and Murray. The company buys up tracts of worthless land at knockdown prices and then sells it off at way above its market value by duping people into thinking it's worth more than it really is. The company buys the lot from the owners (possibly a county council), paying them market value, then sell it for many times that value, thus making a massive profit. Levene mentions in the film that the agents' commission on each invididual sale is 10%, meaning Mitch and Murray take 90%. As such, the land must be sold for a considerable amount in order to make 10% such an attractive figure to the agents (Levene mentions that the Nyborgs deal was $82,000, meaning he would earn $8200 himself; Roma tells Williamson that he closed a deal for $6000, implying the Lingk (Jonathan Pryce) deal was worth $60,000).
However, some fans have expressed displeasure with the film, stating that it gives a false impression of genuine real estate agents and how they do business. But such criticism fails to take into account that Premier Properties is not a legitimate real estate agency; it is a cover to sell worthless land to clueless people by unscrupulous salesmen. Glengarry Glen Ross does not depict the real world of real estate sales. Premier Properties is not a real estate firm. These men are not realtors. The film is about a company of con-men who try to rip people off and convince them to buy into "investment opportunities" which are in fact simply worthless plots of lands miles away from civilization.
Indeed, there are in fact several signs throughout the film that Premier Properties is not a genuine firm. For example, real estate firms tend to employ only well trained and fully licensed and bonded real estate agents. The men in the film are none of these things (at least, there is no evidence that they are licensed or bonded). They do not behave in any way like typical realtors. Real realtors do not cold call. They do not lie about who they work for, and why they have got in touch with the customer (by claiming that the customer has won some sort of prize for example). Another difference is that in traditional real estate agencies, agents are able to solicit for sellers and advertise for buyers on their own, and they are able to earn money from both sources. The men in the film have no way to either solicit for sellers or advertise for buyers. Their only income is the 10% commission that comes from the company provided leads. As such, they are completely dependent on company itself. This is not how a genuine real estate agency works; the notion that a real estate agent would feel the need to steal leads as a last recourse is impossible because agents do not depend on company purchased leads in the first place.
As such, obviously, the film does not accurately depict how real estate agencies work, but the point is that it never claims to. These men are con-men working for a firm of con-men.
No. Williamson tells Levene that "I'm trying to get home for two hours. I gotta go home, grab one hour with my kids, come back, see if any of you closed a contract, take the contract to the bank." Obviously, Williamson went home for an hour, and then returned to the office after Roma had closed the Lingk deal but before Levene had broken in. Presumably, Roma left the closed Lingk contract in a drop box or some other form of receptacle.
Some fans have speculated that due to the nature of the conversation between Roma and Lingk, one, or both, may be gay. Here is Roma's monologue in full:
"All train compartments smell vaguely of shit. It gets so you don't mind it. That's the worst thing that I can confess. You know how long it took me to get there? A long time. When you die, you're gonna regret the things you don't do. You think you're queer? I'm gonna tell you something, we're all queer. You think you're a thief? So what? You get befuddled by a middle class morality? Get shot of it, shut it out. You cheat on your wife? You did it, live with it. You fuck little girls? So be it. There's an absolute morality? Maybe. And then what? If you think there is, then go ahead, be that thing. Bad people go to hell? I don't think so, you think that, act that way. Hell exists on earth? Yes. I won't live in it. That's me. Did you ever take a dump makes you feel like you just slept for twelve hours? Or a piss? [Roma winks at Moss] Great meals fade in reflection, everything else gains. You know why? Cause it's only food. The shit we put in us keeps us going. It's only food. The great fucks you have had. What do you remember about them? I dunno, for me, I'm saying what it is, it's probably not the orgasm. Some broad's forearm on your neck, something her eyes did, there was this sound she made. Or it's me in the...I'm telling you, I'm in bed the next day, she brings me café au lait, gives me a cigarette. My balls feel like concrete. What I'm saying, what is our life? Our life is looking forward or it's looking back. That's it. That's our life. Where's the moment? And what is it we're so afraid of? Loss? What else? The bank closes, we get sick, my wife died on a plane, the stock market collapsed. And what if these things happen? None of them make me worry. Why? [Scene cuts] You know, they say you don't buy it, you rent it. The thing. You really, I mean, what do you keep? You don't keep anything. It's security. Things. Things. You know? It's just, you try to stave off insecurity. You can't do it. No, it's not doing it. Stocks, bonds, objects of art, real estate. What are they? An opportunity. [The camera tracks in at this point as Roma begins to make his pitch] To what? To make money? Perhaps. To lose money? Perhaps. To indulge and learn about ourselves? Perhaps. So fuckin' what, that's all they are, they're an opportunity, that's all they are, they're an event. A guy comes to you, you make a call, you send in a card. "I have these properties I would like for you to see." What does this mean? What do you want it to mean? You see what I'm saying? Things happen to you. Glad I met you. I'm glad I met you James. I wanna show you something, it may mean something to you, it may not, I don't know, I don't know any more. [Roma takes the pamphlet from his pocket and moves close to Lingk] What is that? Florida. Glengarry Highlands. Florida. Bullshit. And maybe that's true, and that's what I said, but what is this? This is a piece of land. Listen to what I'm gonna tell you now."
Some fans feel that the various sexual references in this speech, particularly the line "You think you're queer? I'm gonna tell you something, we're all queer," hint at the fact that Lingk may be homosexual and Roma has sensed this and is exploiting it, or, indeed that Roma himself is homosexual. The most popular theory is that Roma senses latent homosexuality in Lingk and uses that to create a sense of empathy with him; equivalent to saying, "I know you're gay, but we're all gay, so don't worry about it." He uses Lingk's uncertainty over his sexuality to lull him into a false sense of security.
Other fans however argue that this is an over literalization of the scene, that Roma is simply talking convoluted and illogical rubbish in an effort to bemuse Lingk and render him more agreeable for when the pitch is eventually made. And whilst there can be little doubt that the two scenes do represent a seduction, it seems to be a wholly non-sexual seduction; Roma is seducing Lingk into buying the land, he is not literally seducing him. Roma's use of sexual metaphors is simply a way of creating a false sense of intimacy with Lingk, to imply he trusts him, and that the two have become very close in a very short period of time. Roma is basically trying to convince Lingk that if he listens to him, he can put him on the road to being the guy he always wanted to be. And sexuality is a part of that, so he uses sexual references to ease Lingk's mind and make the whole thing appear more naturalistic and as far away from a sales pitch as possible. The sexuality of the scene is simply a means to an end, not a literal component of the scene itself.
No definitive answer is provided for this question in the film, and fans have thus hypothesized several theories as to the significance of the phones being stolen.
The most popular suggestion is simply that stealing the phones was Levene's way of making the robbery look like more of a regular office burglary; if he had only stolen the leads and nothing else, it would have been immediately obvious that the break-in was not a random burglary, but one orchestrated for the express purpose of getting the leads, hence it must have been carried out by someone who knew about them, IE an inside job.
Another theory is that Levene took the phones to prevent Roma, Moss and Aaronow from being able to make sales calls that morning, thus giving himself an extra edge in the sales contest.
Some fans find the penultimate scene in the film a little confusing as to why Roma loses his temper so much with Williamson; what exactly does Williamson do that merits such an outburst? Here is the dialogue from the scene in full from just after Lingk has arrived in the office:
Roma: "Monday, I'll take you to lunch, where'd you like to eat?"
Lingk: "My wife said...."
R: "I can't talk now Jim, I'll call you tonight, right?"
L: "My wife said I have to cancel the deal."
R: "It's a common reaction Jim, and lemme tell you what it is, and I know that's why you married her. One of the reasons is prudence. It's a sizable investment, no, one thinks twice. It's also something women have - reaction to the size of the investment. Monday, you invite me to dinner again, and we're gonna talk. And I wanna tell you something. There's something about your acreage I want you to know. I can't talk about it here, and I really shouldn't, by law I...The man next to you bought his lot at forty two phoned to say he already had an offer. What a day. I'll call you this evening Jim, I'm sorry you had to come all the way in. I'm sorry, Monday lunch. Monday."
L: "She called the consumer...the Attorney...I dunno, the Attorney General. They said we have three days."
R: "Who'd she call?"
L: "The Attorney Gen...it was some consumer office."
R: "Why'd she do that Jim?"
L: "I don't know, but they said we have three days. They said we got three days."
R: "Three days?"
L: "To, you know."
R: "No, I don't know, tell me."
L: "To change our minds."
R: "Of course you have, three days."
L: "So we can't talk Monday."
R: "Monday? You saw my book. Jim, Jim, I can't, you saw my book, I can't."
L : "Well we have till before Monday to get our money back."
R: "Three business days, they mean, three business days."
L: "Yeah, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday."
R: "I don't understand."
L: "That's what they are, they're three business days. If we wait until Monday, my time limit runs out."
R: "You don't count Saturday."
L: "I'm not."
R: "No, I'm saying you don't include Saturday in the three days. It's not a business day."
L: "I am not counting it. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. So it would have elapsed."
R: "What would have elapsed?"
L: "If we wait till Monday it would have elapsed."
R: "When did you write the cheque?"
R: "What was yesterday?"
R: "And when was that cheque cashed?"
L: "I don't know."
R: "Well, what was the earliest that it could've been cashed?"
L: "I don't now."
R: "Today? Today. Which in any case it was not as there was something on the agreement which I wanted to go over with you, in any case."
L: "It wasn't cashed?"
R: "I just phoned downtown. It's on their desk. One point in fact of which I spoke to you of which. I can't talk to you about it here. The statute is for your protection, I have no complaint with that. In fact I was a member of the board when we drafted it, so quite the opposite. It says you can change your mind three working days from the time the deal was closed, which is not until the cheque is cashed."
[Interruption by Baylen (Jude Ciccolella) and Aaronow]
L: "It's not me, it's my wife."
R: "What isn't?"
L: "I told you."
R: "Tell me again. What's going on here? Tell me again. Your wife."
L: "I told you."
R: "Tell me again."
L: "She wants the money back."
R: "But we're gonna speak to her."
L: "No, she told me right now."
R: "But we're gonna speak to her Jim."
L: "No, she won't listen. She said that if I don't get my money back, I have to call the state's attorney."
R: "No, no, this is something she said, we don't have to do that."
L: "She told me I have to."
R: "No. No. Jim."
[Baylen again interrupts]
R: "This is me. Jim, this is Ricky Jim. Jim, anything you want, you want it, you got it, you understand? This is me. Something upset you. Yes. Sit down, no, sit down. And am I gonna help you fix it? You're goddamn right I am. Sit down. Tell you something. Sometimes we need someone from outside. Sit, talk to me, c'mon."
L: "I can't negotiate."
R: "What does that mean?"
L: "Well, I..."
R: "What? Say the words."
L: "I don't have the power. There, I said it."
R: "What power?"
L: "To negotiate."
R: "To negotiate what? To negotiate what?"
R: "What this?"
L: "The deal."
R: "The deal? Forget the deal Jim, you got something on your mind. What is it?"
L: "I can't talk to you. You met my wife."
R: "What? I met your wife, what? What Jim? Let's go, c'mon, let's go get a drink, c'mon."
L: "She told me not to talk to you."
R: "Oh, come on, we'll go around the corner, have a drink, who's gonna know?"
L: "She told me I have to get the cheque back."
R: "Jimmy, forget the deal, the deal is dead, you know me, the deal is dead. Am I talking about the deal? That's over. Please, let's talk about you. I'm gonna tell you something. Your life is your own. You have a contract with your wife, you have certain things you do jointly, and you've a bond there. And there are other things, and those things are yours. Now you needn't feel ashamed, you needn't feel that you're being untrue, or that she would abandon you if she knew. This is your life. Yes? Now I wanna talk to you cause you're obviously upset and that concerns me. Now let's go, c'mon, right now, c'mon."
L: "The cheque."
R: "What? What did I tell you, no, no, what did I tell you about the three days?"
[Baylen interrupts again; Williamson intervenes]
R: "I was just reassuring Mr. Lingk."
Williamson: "Mr. Lingk? James Lingk? Your contract went out, nothing to worry about."
R: "John, John."
W: "Your contract went out to the bank."
L: "You cashed my cheque?"
R: "Mr. Williamson."
W: "The cheque was cashed, the contract was filed and deposited in the bank, and we're completely insured in any case, as you know."
L: "You cashed the cheque?"
R: "Not to my knowledge, no."
W: "Well, I'm sure we can..."
R: "Not to my knowledge."
L: "How am I gonna...Oh Christ. Hey, don't follow me, just don't follow me ok?"
The problem concerns how long Lingk has to pull out of the deal, the oft-mentioned "three days." If Lingk thinks the cheque has been cashed, he will think he only has until Friday to back out of the deal, and will thus act immediately. Roma is trying to convince him he has until Monday, telling him the cheque hasn't been cashed yet (the scene takes place on Wednesday morning). Roma's reason for doing this is if they wait until Monday, Lingk will no longer be able to pull out of the deal, as he says himself, the time will have elapsed. If Roma can make Lingk believe that the cheque has not been cashed, Lingk might agree to wait until Monday, hence making a renege on the deal impossible, but if Lingk thinks the cheque has been cashed, he obviously isn't going to wait, and will attempt to pull out of the deal immediately. Williamson ruins Roma's plan by telling Lingk that the cheque has already been cashed (which it hasn't), thus Lingk assumes he only has until Friday, and Roma will now be unable to convince him to wait until Monday; hence Lingk will be able to back out of the deal, as he will do so in the time allowed. Williamson mistakenly thinks Lingk is worried about the deal going through, that the contract may have been stolen in the robbery, so he lies about it, saying the contract has already gone to the bank (which it hasn't; it is still on Williamson's desk). He thinks this will help Roma by putting Lingk's mind at ease, when it actual fact it has completely the opposite effect.
Because Levene knew that Williamson was lying about the Lingk contract having gone to the bank. In reality, the Lingk contract was on Williamson's desk, but Williamson tells Roma that he had brought it to the bank. When telling Williamson what an idiot he is, Levene says "If you're gonna make something up, John, be sure that it helps." Levene should have had no way of knowing that Williamson was lying. Like Roma, Levene should have assumed that Williamson was telling the truth. Williamson usually dropped the contracts off every night, but on the night of the robbery he didn't. So Williamson's lie to Lingk about the contract being sent in should have gone by unrecognized by everyone. But Levene knew because he had seen the contract on the desk. Ergo, he had been in the office and he was the thief.
Shelley's big "victory" is the deal he'd made with the Nyborgs for a sale of $82,000, his first big closing in a long time, perhaps years. The Nyborgs had been known around the office (and perhaps other real estate offices) as customers who'd repeatedly show up in the stacks of leads but would never actually take any deals with the salespeople they'd talk to. Shelley, however, didn't know that fact.
After Williamson drags Shelley's confession of the crime out of him, he reveals that the check the Nyborgs wrote to close the deal is worthless: the Nyborgs don't have the kind of money Shelley got them to sign for. When Williamson tells Shelley that the Nyborgs are crazy and that he'd had dealings with them at another company, he also tells Shelley "they just like talking to salesmen," which likely means they like to deliberately waste the time of salespeople for their own amusement or due to some mental imbalance. Williamson also points out that if Shelley had been more observant in the Nyborgs' home, he'd have seen that they live rather poorly and couldn't possibly invest in expensive property.
In an earlier scene, Moss and Aaronow are talking in the bar at the Chinese restaurant and one of them says the same line. It's likely that the line "they just like talking to salesmen" is slang (or even mantra) in the industry for people like the Nyborgs who are crazy enough to listen to a sales pitch just to waste a salesperson's time. The look of despair on Shelley's face when Williamson tells him makes it plain that it's a concept he's very familiar with and that he's been duped after many successful years in the business and the recent slump he's been in.
"It means the Nyborgs are a bunch of lonely old shut-ins with Alzheimer's who haven't left the house since they moved in, they don't know what the Hell decade it is... they're so old and lonely, they have salesman come over for the company... so someone will come over, be nice to them and they can entertain and feel like they're doing something with their lives. Like they're actually making a real business deal. THAT'S what it means... "--Sincere As Always, Dane Youssef
Many fans have queried this. At the end of the film, Williamson takes great pleasure in telling Levene that the Nyborgs are crazy and that the cheque they wrote for Levene is no good. However, if Williamson knew this, why did he give Levene the lead in the first place? Here is the conversation between the two about the lead:
Williamson: "Bruce and Harriet Nyborg? You wanna see the memos? They're nuts. They used to call in every week when I was with Webb and we were selling Arizona. They're nuts. Did you see how they were living? How can you delude yourself?"
Levene: "I got their cheque."
W: "Yeah, well forget it, frame it, it's worthless."
L: "The cheque is no good?"
W: "Yeah, you wanna wait around, I'll pull the memo. I'm busy now."
L: "Wait a minute. The cheque is no good? They're nuts?"
W: "Wanna call the bank Shelley? I called them. I called them four months ago when we first got the lead. The people are insane. They just like talking to salesmen."
W: "I'm sorry."
W: "Because I don't like you."
L: "My daughter..."
W: "Fuck you."
Williamson knew the Nyborg lead was worthless; as he says, he confirmed it four months previously when Premier Properties first got the lead, but he repeatedly gave the lead to Levene anyway (Levene mentions at one stage that he has seen the Nyborg name several times before). We know Williamson is more than capable of lying as he lies to Lingk about the contract, and then lies to Levene about not turning him in if he confessed. He is also willing to accept a bribe from Levene earlier in the film and to hand out the Glengarry leads. As such, Williamson is portrayed as a man with dubious scruples. Taking this fact together with his comment to Levene "because I don't like you," may imply that Williamson purposefully gave Levene the bad lead simply because he disliked him, to waste his time, cause him to fail and therefore, to bring about his redundancy.
Another, similar, theory, is that the parent company, Mitch and Murray, wanted to cut the number of workers they employed so they devised the sales contest and randomly distributed worthless leads to ensure someone would fail (the main difference between this theory and the above is that in the above theory, Levene is specifically chosen to receive the bad lead, but here, he is simply unlucky).
Both these theories involve someone at some stage consciously making the decision to give the bad lead to someone, and as such, there can be little doubt that there is some degree of maliciousness at play somewhere along the chain of command; someone knows the lead is bad, but they never make any attempt to recall it.
Although the plot of the film and the narrative trajectory are very straightforward, some fans feel that the film is about more than what it appears on the surface; ie it isn't simply about a group of salesmen fighting for their job, there is a more symbolic/metaphoric meaning behind the relatively simple facade. Various theories have developed in this sense, each one tending to see the film as commenting on a much larger milieu than the offices of Premier Properties, and referring beyond these few salesmen.
One theory is that the film is a lament for the traditional door-to-door salesman; that the film depicts a new kind of American salesmanship, based in offices and corporations, using telephones and computers, without much personal contact. The constant tension in the office, the lack of a shred of honor or moral integrity amongst the men all point to the fact that the film is lamenting how selling has changed in the America of the 1980s/1990s.
Another theory is that the film is about the tendency to equate masculinity with a successful job. This theme is introduced by Blake who comments that it "takes brass balls to sell real estate" and then asks Levene if he is "man enough" to take the customers' money. In this scene, Blake is the alpha male, and he is in that position because he is a more successful salesmen than any of the others - he is the superior male because he is the superior seller; masculinity is in direct proportion to success.
Another theory is that the film is about the American Dream, just as was its famous predecessor on the stage; Arthur Miller's 1949 play, Death of a Salesman. This theory argues that the film is about men who want to become quick successes rather than persons of genuine accomplishment and worth; ie men who feel that a quick (and dishonest) sale automatically means success despite the fact that by the very nature of what they do, a sale means someone has been duped into buying something worthless. This is presented as a corruption of the American Dream, where hard work is supposed to bring its just rewards; you get back what you put in. The men in this film lie and attempt to con people, and they equate genuine life-success with their success at conning. The better a liar you are, the more successful you'll be, and the more successful you are, the happier you'll be - a complete distortion of the very foundation of the American Dream, where honesty is as much a part of a successful life as successful work is.
It is also worth pointing out that on his DVD commentary, director James Foley likened the film to a nature documentary: I always thought of the film as being animalistic in a way, where everybody, every being that appears on screen, is an organic beast, an animal that's trying to survive, and will do what it has to do to survive. Morality is a secondary issue. The moral consequences of their actions are secondary. I always thought of it as a nature documentary, as if one is watching the Animal Planet channel, seeing predatory beasts trying to survive.
On the other hand, it could just as easily be a deceptively simple essay on how people can be both admirable (because they work hard and provide) and despicable (because they con) at the same time. The film is thus about human frailties - a pointer towards the propensity to throw stones at glass houses - which is within everyone. It is likely that no one in this film began their careers as a cheat or a liar, but that is what they have become. However, the audience seems encouraged to think that they are good people away from work, and thus ask the question does their work or their home life define them as either a good or bad person, or both, or neither? Shelley, for example, is trying to make sales to get money for his daughter. However, he is also trying to dupe people to get it, and his eagerness to 'do the right thing' perhaps clouds his judgment to the point where his only consideration is how he can keep his job and put food on the table. His motives are honorable, but his practices not so. This raises the question of what constitutes morality? Where do we draw the line between caring for our family and taking advantage of others? Ultimately, this could be the very question which the film is asking.
The R1 US Special Edition DVD, released by Lions Gate in 2002, and the R2 UK Special Edition DVD, released by Granada Ventures in 2005 both contain the following special features:
Feature length audio commentary with director James Foley
Scene specific audio commentary with actors Alec Baldwin and Alan Arkin, director of photography Juan Ruiz Anchía, and production designer Jane Musky
"A.B.C. (Always Be Closing)"; a 30 minute collection of interviews with real life salesmen who are all fans of the movie
"Magic Time: A Tribute to Jack Lemmon (2002)": a 30 minute overview of the career of Jack Lemmon, made in 2002
"J. Roy: New and Used Furniture (1974)": a 10 minute documentary made in 1974 about salesman Jimmy Roy
Clips from Jack Lemmon's 1993 appearance on Charlie Rose (1991) and Kevin Spacey's 2000 appearance on Inside the Actors Studio (1994).
Yes it is. There are two versions available in the UK, both released in 2012 by Granada Ventures. The standard edition has the same features as the special edition DVD. The Steelbook Collector's Edition features a Blu-ray copy of the film, plus the two DVDs from the Special Edition DVD set. However, both sets are Region B locked. There is no Region A Blu-ray at the moment.