Sunday, March 01, 2009

"People I Know" (2002) - Movie Review

The underbelly of the celebrity den is a suffocating exhibition of debauchery, betrayal and politics. In this den works an aging publicist Eli Wurman (Al Pacino), a disintegrating man going through one of those nights with a dreary day to follow. He has gone through this chore million times and his face is there to show it and the people he meets and talks to prove it. Yet this time around he is beginning to lose it and whether he can hold himself together for this ride becomes “People I Know”.

Whenever there is a train wreck of a career I hear about a celebrity with drugs and scandals, I always wonder what makes them to trigger out these obvious mistakes. And then I evaluate their fame and glamour. The adrenaline of walking that red carpet and people adoring you is a pure insurmountable experience to miss. Being loved in any ways is a feeling hard to deny. This makes them to the elevation of being god and then it becomes a curiosity to push the envelope more and more and test the limits of this pleasure. Is there a roof to hit is the question they ask every time they get into drug rides and crazy outcomes. It is tough to handle that sort of power, many and fame. It is tough being the god of uncontrollable emotions running around them. And Eli Wurman has made a career making them look good or at least making them not look worse with the troubles they get.

Eli after a bad play he worked as publicist is gearing up for the next day. A day which heads to a benefit function he has managed to organize for a cause of African Americans and the deportation of African foreigners by the current Mayor. A very liberal man Eli spent his young ages in the free love 60s and 70s but understands the city of New York changing constantly into this potpourri of different culture, politics, religion, race and the countless things which divides people. He has survived that storm of climate and now wants to have something attached to him he once believed. This fund raiser is the only thing he could feel a little good about himself. But before that he gets a quick job from his only client, a popular and famed actor Cary Launer (Ryan O’Neal).

Cary rings up his man downstairs to give a mess to clean up which Eli has done so many times. Eli smoothly blackmails to not take up this unless Cary comes by for the benefit. They agree or at least seemingly closer to terms. The mess is Television actress Jilli Hopper (Téa Leoni). She is one of Cary’s flock birds. Eli gets her out from a police precinct as she got herself into trouble for drug possession. She comes out without realizing who Eli is and then freaks insane to learn that he is Cary’s man. In that night they go to a place where the next day has no trace of happenings and a zone of pleasure induced by drugs that would make your head spin. While Jilli is busy in getting a toy which would be a vital information source, Eli sucks some Opium to be blacked out of the skull. They end up in a hotel and when Eli in his hazy state is taking a leak in dark rest room, Jilli gets attacked and in half conscious state Eli witnesses it. He walks out of the room without any knowledge and the day unfurls.

“People I Know” as the plot makes it sound is not a thriller. It is a depressing state of life for a man. He had complete knowledge of his actions in his career he has chosen and has built upon a falsified fort to look upon higher causes which now begins to break and fall while he stands on it. He knows too many men and women who knows too many other people. He knows information that he has been safe to keep upon and stayed loyal to his clients to keep his career going. He thought of surviving this day for the cause he worked upon and that would give him some closure before he can get out.

The only purest and honest thing in his life is his demised brother’s wife Vicki (Kim Basinger) and both are in love which they cannot pursue. But when Eli walks with shoulders down and eyes sunk, she does not light him up but the mere face can make him sleep flat on a couch forgetting his horrific and ugly world he is dealing with. And who else other than Al Pacino can do it. He comes here without his regular throwing up of hands in air and spitting words at his oppositions. Here he is drugged, soft, cunning and smooth. He would slit a throat of some one while they are dining with him and they would only notice an hour after in their bed bleeding. And they would call him to fix it. He is that guy.

“People I Know” directed by Daniel Algrant is an early but sad version of “Michael Clayton”. Eli and Michael have seen things and tolerated it to accept it as jobs than wrongdoings. They swam across the river of phony and disgusting betrayals amongst the broken bodies of discarded values and system to the place they are right now. And they are stark naked and shivering of their bath in hell with no one to offer them warmth. Even if there is some one, they are a mirage of the hope for which they see another river of garbage they need to cross. I knew Michael Clayton survived to make that mirage into a little solace of possible absolution but does Eli has a chance? See “People I Know” for that.

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