He's Seen Better Days
As if Al Pacino didnít look haggard enough in Insomnia, here comes People I Know with the acclaimed actor playing an even more worn-out character. This time, heís Eli Wurman, a New York PR man whoís seen much better days. Wurmanís list of clients now includes only one celebrity --- Cary Launer (Ryan OíNeal), a movie star with political ambitions. Wurman doesnít realize it, but he would be better off without the Oscar-winning actor, who cruelly announces he needs younger, more energetic representation.
Proving that no good deed goes unpunished, when Wurman tries to help Launer by taking one of his girlfriends (Tea Leoni) to the airport, heís persuaded to make two stops which lead to the discovery of an opium den and, worse, result in the witnessing of a murder. Because the various drugs Wurman has ingested dull his memory of both events, he's not about to worry over a murder heís not even sure happened. As a dedicated publicist, heís too busy making sure there's a big turn-out at his fund-raiser scheduled for that evening. Itís a benefit for Nigerians facing illegal deportation, and Wurman wants to make sure high-powered people show up. For some reason, he seems the most anxious about Regis Philbinís attendance.
After watching this depressing film, I felt as tired as Pacino looked. In the span of one day, his character has to deal with the potential loss of his only remaining client, the last-minute details of a big fund-raiser, the flop of a play heís invested in, a visit from his sister-in-law (Kim Basinger) who wants him to return with her to Georgia, finding blood in his urine, and the political confrontations between his star attractions (Richard Schiff and Bill Nunn) at the benefit heís sponsoring. And, finally, Wurner no longer knows who he can trust. Sad to say, but I just wanted it all to end -- despite the brilliance of Pacinoís performance. With his slumped-over stance, bags under his eyes, rumpled hair, slow Southern drawl and labored breathing, Pacino nailed this character as well as any actor could.
A once powerful man reduced to such circumstances is not a pretty sight. Obviously, from the pictures in Wurmanís office, heís worked with many A-list celebrities and been involved in worthy civil rights activities. Nevertheless, Wurner canít help wondering if anything heís done really made a difference. In a poignant exchange with his put-upon young assistant (Mark Webber), Wurner finally reveals serious doubts about the life heís chosen.
People I Know, directed by David Algrant (Naked in New York) from a script by Jon Robin Baitz (TVís West Wing), is definitely NOT a PR recruiting film. Itís an in-depth character study with a mystery thrown in to add a bit of suspense. Unfortunately, I found the character too unsympathetic (although not as much so as the slimy press agent played by Tony Curtis in Sweet Smell of Success) and the mystery of little interest. Still, Pacino fans should not miss this one -- like Johnny Depp in Secret Window, heís in every scene.
The DVD bonus features include filmmaker Algrantís commentary and two scenes that were deleted because they show the World Trade Center prior to 9/11.
(Released by Buena Vista Home Entertainment and rated ďRĒ for language, drug use and brief sexual images.)