People I Know
If People I Know director Dan Algrant's arty 2002 drama-thriller about a has-been Manhattan publicist had to be summed up in one word, that word would have to be "bleak." No other adjective so closely describes the empty, soulless life of Eli Wurman (Al Pacino), a one-time-great media wrangler who has gradually been beaten down by time and the endless glad-handing of vapid, fame-obsessed celebrities. The things Eli does care passionately about liberal political causes and his sympathetic sister-in-law Vicky (Kim Basinger) are constantly overshadowed by the demands of people like Cary Launer (Ryan O'Neal), an Oscar-winning actor who finds himself in a sticky situation the night before a big benefit Eli has been planning for weeks. Since Cary is Eli's last big client, Eli agrees to help him a favor that leads to a long, confusing night with drug-addled starlet Jilli Hopper (Tea Leoni) and culminates in Eli knowing far too much about something no one in their right mind would want to know about at all. But People I Know is much more a character study than a plot-driven thriller; after the first third of the movie, the film's focus shifts almost entirely to watching Eli get closer and closer to his breaking point. Pacino gives the part his all, but Eli is such a mess he walks like he's 90 years old and has a habit of making very rambling speeches that it's hard to do much besides wince and wait for his inevitable fall. (The character's southern background doesn't help, either; Al Pacino was not meant to have a soft Georgia accent and call people "honey.") O'Neal is perfectly cast as the almost-blandly beautiful Cary; suggestible and eager, Cary sees only great things for himself and is more than willing to let Eli clean up his messes. But Eli just doesn't have it in him anymore even the benefit he cares so much about loses its luster after his night with Jilli makes him realize how meaningless his life has been and how lonely he is, even with a fat Rolodex by his side. Algrant hammers that point home, turning People I Know into a grim, depressing cautionary tale about the danger of mistaking business associates for friends and making networking more of a priority than real relationships. Miramax offers People I Know in a clean anamorphic transfer (1.85:1), accompanied by DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (a French 5.1 track also is available, as are Spanish subtitles and English closed captions). The extras list features two deleted scenes (cut for sensitivity because they spotlighted the World Trade Center) and a commentary by Algrant and stage/film director/writer/producer Gregory Mosher). Keep-case.