Lisa Schwarzbaum
May 02, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

People I Know

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
runtime
95 minutes
Limited Release Date
04/25/03
performer
Tea Leoni, Al Pacino, Kim Basinger, Robert Klein, Ryan O'Neal, Richard Schiff, Mark Webber
director
Daniel Algrant
distributor
Miramax
author
Jon Robin Baitz
genre
Mystery and Thriller, Drama

We gave it a C+

In People I Know, Al Pacino plays New York publicist Eli Wurman like an exhausted man staggering around the same land of the midnight sun that Pacino traversed in ”Insomnia.” Eli is soul-tired, and yet he keeps on moving, shaking, and schmoozing. Beholden to his most famous client, Cary Launer (Ryan O’Neal), a movie star thinking of running for office, Eli is dispatched to clean up after one of Cary’s messes by bailing out an unstrung, inconveniently drug-prone model (Téa Leoni) who is a recent unsavory playmate. The errand leads Eli into an underworld of backroom parties and cabals and murder: By the nutty finale of Jon Robin Baitz’s bombastic, flamboyantly theatrical script, shadowy media, entertainment, and political power brokers control the world.

I’d stay more engaged in Pacino’s zany character study if I felt surer that Baitz and director Dan Algrant (”Sex and the City”) were in control of the movie’s mad descent into post-”Sweet Smell of Success” darkness and pathos; as it is, the story collapses like a bad tip to Liz Smith. Still, there’s something brash, retro, and even stupidly touching about all the chatty mania, and the way Baitz and Pacino get off on paranoia, conspiracy theories, and the lure of 1960s idealism. ”People I Know” doesn’t know people, but insists that it does — just as a good publicist should.

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