Thursday, 23 August 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1992: Jack Lemmon in Glengarry Glen Ross

Jack Lemmon did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Shelley "The Machine" Levene in Glengarry Glen Ross.

Glengarry Glen Ross is a terrific film about a group of real estate salesman made by the great script and the ensemble of great actors in top form.

Jack Lemmon portrays Shelley Levene who is a real estate salesman who seems to be now on one long losing streak when it comes to making a single sale. Lemmon is one giant mess in all the right ways with his performance here as Shelley. Lemmon makes Shelley a man represented by his constant desperation. This is not some simple desperation that has come overnight, rather Lemmon is able to convey the history of failing that has befallen Shelley leaving him in this state.

Lemmon is excellent though because he does not show Shelley's desperation to really be a depression. Shelley never stops during the film he is always trying to finally break his losing streak at any times. Lemmon's basis his performance well around the spark of life that still is in Shelley as he tries hard to do anything to alleviate his terrible situation he has fallen into. It would have been easy to make Shelley a far more downer of a man, but Lemmon effectively shows more about Shelley's past by not doing this.

Jack Lemmon is able to bring to life the past of Shelley to life by subtly suggesting his successes were once great. Lemmon never has Shelley really did lose that life in Shelley that shows that he was not always a failure in his job. Lemmon of course does not have this as something that is always apparent in Shelley, as he most certainly is downtrodden but he handles it extremely well by having it an underlying factor throughout. He does have a glint of his strength that he once had.

Interestingly though there are even moments where there is even a pompous quality that Lemmon does bring in with Shelley in just a few moments. He does not overdue do it, and it is only shown in his scenes with Kevin Spacey's Williamson. There is an anger in few times where Shelley tries to basically tell off Williamson by telling him about his former power within their organization. Lemmon is great in these scenes because it is a genuinely portrayed moment of anger in Shelley, anger in that he has fallen so far and can get as much disrespect from his organization. 

A great deal of the performance comes in with his scenes where Shelley is trying to get that one sale that will turn things around for him. Lemmon is excellent in everyone of these scenes. In his earliest ones where he is calling someone over the phone Lemmon shows Shelley's style perfectly being a calm and charismatic salesman pushing forward the sale carefully through simple tricks. Lemmon though off sets this wonderfully though by conveying in his face that there still is that same nervous desperation, even when he is so calm and professional in sales trickery.

Lemmon very best moment might come in one very disheartening scene where Shelley tries to get a sale out a man who clearly does not have the slightest interest in one. Lemmon is wonderful as he brings to life the struggle Shelley has to try to keep going, and trying anything he can do to do to convince this man to buy something from him, even though clearly the man does not have the slightest interest. It is a heartbreaking scene because Lemmon completely brings to life the fact that Shelley is giving everything, everything that he has and knows as a salesman and can't get anything out of the man.

Lemmon though is equally outstanding though in the second half of the film after Shelley has apparently successfully made big sale. Lemmon is amazing here as he really brings about that underlying spark fully out as Shelley becomes his old self again. Lemmon portrays Shelley as completely being rejuvenated the desperation is gone and he is joyous over his success after so long. Lemmon before showed us Shelley always trying to be his old self, but here Lemmon shows us the old salesman. A man completely sure of his self , his prowess and absolutely proud as one can be over his achievement.

His scenes are great here, particularly his reactions with Pacino's Ricky Roma as he describes with the utmost energy his method of selling the property. This continues on to him helping Roma try to finish securing his sale with a jittery man (Jonathan Pryce). Pacino and Lemmon are perfect in their scene together as the two men put on a ruse over the man to try to keep Roma's sale despite the man's reservations over it. They bring to life the abilities of the two men in a highly entertaining fashion after as they play off each other to attempt to keep the man in on the deal. Lemmon again shows us Shelley's old self secure and confidant although maybe too confidant.

Lemmon shows that Shelley not only completely loses his desperation but too much believes himself once again the infallible machine. Lemmon portrays an insistent pride in his accomplishments and abilities that pushes Shelley basically to say too much and go too far that leads him into trouble. Lemmon is just incredible in his final scene as Shelley tries basically one last desperate sale. In this moment when he sees the odds are against him Lemmon effectively portrays that Shelley loses all that pride and confidence before and returns to the same desperation from the beginning. It is a heartbreaking scene as Lemmon shows one last failure in his moving portrait of this tragic man.


Anonymous said...

Just brilliant. Everyone was, really.

dinasztie said...

I really hope he gets your vote. This might be his very best performance. So heartbreaking and real. I don't see how he didn't receive the nomination considering the nominated performances and what a star he was. Weird.

mrripley said...

A great review and a big shame he was not nominated he is my 92 winner with ease.

Anonymous said...

The best performance of the year.