Nowadays, it is a golden nugget in the internet vault of pop culture, widely cited by bloggers, trolls, and greedy types —you know, venture capitalists, Silicon Valley bros, and such ilk. Back in 1992, though, it was just an uncanny acting duel in the film rendition of Mamet’s play Glengarry Glen Ross. Who doesn’t remember at least Baldwin’s lapidarian phrase directed at Levene, when the character played by Jack Lemmon was about to pour himself a vulgar cup of coffee? The whole film, and that scene in particular, continue to fascinate me at so many different levels. And when I happen to lurk some social media site, comment section, or forum, and someone puts out there a bit or two from the movie, 9 out of 10 it is “coffee is for closers” and it clicks my “a-ha!” spring immediately.
Let’s be honest: most of us loved that scene and unconsciously admired the no-hostages attitude of Blake. However, at least for some of us, that was until we realized that life is too short to waste in the Americanesque cowboy-like posturing of get-rich-or-die-trying mumbo jumbo, guns-blazing salesperson type of approach to zero sum life games. Sadly, I keep finding 40-somethings who keep quoting the scene but not in a hey-look-at-this-cool-film kind of way, but a I-live-my-life-by-this-code kind instead. And it is pathetic. I mean, seriously, are you still trying to be Gordon Gecko?—I imaginarily ask those people citing the film in awe. Surely they still do coke, smoke cigars, call women “broads”, and own a “man cave” eternally in progress.
I get it. It’s the epitome of raging capitalism, homo homini lupus and all that. And it is precisely the critique Mamet was trying to convey. But, to get one’s mouth full and live by it? The worst people I met in my life at least had the decency of having read that astrologist of Milton Friedman, and the less clever ones flipped through the pages of Atlas Shrugged. By, a film? Oh boy, that must be down there with those who still drool with bikini shots of Samantha Fox, listen to Twisted Sister, and keep rewinding the final scene of Karate Kid. Dude, seriously, news for you: American Psycho was a critique not an apologetic documentary.
What unnerves me is, basically, that the Western stats of social mobility, income disparity, quality of life, and the like, clearly show that success (at least the one defined as popular admiration based on wealth accumulation) has little to do with hard work. It has to do more with who are one’s parents. And for every rags-to-riches story you see in the news (mostly Fox) there are tens of millions of people who worked hard but just did not have luck —or the right parents, schoolmates, neighbors, etc. The message of “coffee is for closers” merely says that if you make money then you deserve to get a carrot. If not, stick it is. Screw that. Please stop quoting the movie as if it was a mantra or contained some deep, life-guiding wisdom.