People I Know (2002) / Drama-Thriller

MPAA Rated: R for language, drug use and brief sexual images
Running Time: 100 min.

Cast: Al Pacino, Ryan O'Neal, Tea Leoni, Kim Basinger, Richard Schiff, Bill Nunn
Director: Daniel Algrant
Screenplay: Jon Robin Baitz
Review published November 23, 2002

I would be intrigued to be hooked up to all sorts of monitors and brainwave scanners while watching PEOPLE I KNOW to see what reactions and emotions went through me.  I suspect that if I were to watch a blank screen for the same duration, I might elicit just as little sense of emotion or interest.  This film was as dull a movie as I've seen in recent years, with such a failure to engage my interest, I might as well have been meditating for the duration.  I suspect I would easily have achieved nirvana.

Pacino plays Eli Wurman, a New York publicist who tries to get a coked-up starlet out of the spotlight in order to help his politically aspiring friend, Cary.  Eli tries to babysit her, but while at a local drug party, she films things she shouldn't with a Gameboy (or something.)  While at her hotel room, Eli is in the bathtub trying to get over some bad drugs when he is witness to the starlet's murder, covered up to look like a drug overdose.  However, he was so out of it, he hardly remembers a thing.  Meanwhile, he has a fundraiser to prepare for, a who's who of political animals and members of the press, all seeking publicity of their own.

I like Al Pacino very much, but I didn't care for him in this film.  His terrible attempt at a Georgia accent and slovenly behavior is much more suited for another actor, and as lucky as the filmmakers were to get someone of his stature to perform in such a snoozer, they probably would have been better off without him.  Not that anyone could have made much with such a talky script, and directing so static, a camera might as well have been mounted on a tripod by Pacino to shoot most of the scenes.  Pacino's involvement only calls to light how boring it really is, because if one of the world's most engaging actors can't spark an interest in the story, you've got a real stinker on your hands.

I can't recommend this film to anyone who isn't part of the New York publicity machine, as it's probably excruciatingly monotonous to most anyone else.  With such a terrific cast, and a plot that looks interesting on paper, you might think it can't miss.  Grab a comfortable chair.  If Pacino's Will Dormer had viewed a screening of this during INSOMNIA, he'd definitely have found a fail-proof cure.

Qwipster's rating:

2002 Vince Leo