People I Know

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Review byMatthew Turner16/02/2004

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 100 mins

Dull, slow, tedious film with a bizarre, yet strangely compelling performance from Al Pacino - though not always in a good way.

People I Know is written by playwright John Rabin Baitz and directed by Daniel Algrant, who at least has a feel for New York, having previously knocked out a couple of episodes of Sex And The City. It also has “Shouty” Al Pacino in a showy lead role, as well as Kim “Oscar Winner” Basinger in support, so, to be fair, the signs were good.

Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the film simply doesn’t work – it’s dull where it should be exciting and tedious where it should be moving. Perhaps Al just doesn’t shout enough…

Pacino As Shouty Publicist

Pacino plays Eli Wurer, an ageing New York publicist whose best days are behind him. His remaining big-shot client is a movie star with political aspirations, Carey Launer (Ryan O’Neal, oozing smarm), who calls him in the middle of the night announcing that he’s got “an awkward”.

The ‘awkward’ in question turns out to be Téa Leoni as an energetic TV presenter with a drug problem – Eli is assigned to bail her out of jail and get her on a private jet back to L.A., but things go Horribly Wrong before he can do so.

The film takes place over 24 hours, so in addition to Eli’s problems with Leoni, he also has to: broker a deal between a Harlem minister (Bill Nunn) and a Jewish millionaire (Richard Schiff) involving a charity event; meet up with the widow of his brother Kim Basinger (who ladles on the sentimentality by trying to persuade him to retire to a farm in Virginia – an unintentionally laughable moment); meet up with his pill-pushing doctor and also somehow find time to have medical tests of the most uncomfortable kind…

Film Never Takes Off

Despite a strong supporting cast, the film never really takes off. Leoni, in particular, is excellent and the best thing in the film by some way – however, she is given criminally little to do and once she disappears, she takes your interest in the film along with her.

The film essentially stands or falls on its central performance and, for once, Shouty Al lets us down. For one thing, he plays the entire film with an off-putting, vaguely effeminate lisp – it’s a performance that teeters right along the edge of camp and occasionally overbalances.

He’s also supposed to be from the South, meaning that he says things like, “Maybe I’m just a cracker from down South, but…”. Having said that, Pacino is always watchable, even when he’s awful (see also The Recruit) and he’s bizarrely compelling here.

In short, unless you’re a die-hard Pacino fan, People I Know is probably best avoided. And will someone PLEASE give Téa Leoni a decent part soon?

Film Trailer

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Content updated: 14/12/2019 12:24

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