PEOPLE I KNOW **
CAST: Al Pacino, Kim Basinger, Ryan ONeal,
Tea Leoni, Richard Schiff, Bill Nunn, Robert Klein, Mark Webber
DIRECTOR: Dan Algrant
streets are teeming with violence, narcissistic celebs and parasitic
politicians are kissing up to one another, an African-American man
of God battles a wealthy, influential Jew for a slice of the urban
pie, playgirls engage in all-night orgies with city officials at
a chic downtown sex club, and the mayor swindles the people who
voted for him. Worst of all, a drug-fueled press agent who has been
paid by his client--a macho movie star with senatorial ambitionsto
watch over a flaky starlet has come out of a stupor just in time
to see a thug administer a fatal overdose to that very same starlet.
Into what fresh hell have we stumbled? Dont be silly. Its
New York, New York, and if you cant get violated here, you
can cant get violated anywhere. That may or may not be the
message of Dan Algrants frenzied, murky, paranoiac, poison-pen
write-off of what is arguably Americas greatest city. And
to think director Algrant and screenwriter Jon Robin Baitz got the
movie all wrapped up and ready to go just in time for 9/11/01. A
miracle of timing for the creative team and for Miramaxs Harvey
Weinstein it was not, and so the movie that dares to call New York
a cesspool landed on the Miramax shelf. Until now.
The true miracle is that "People I Know," for all its
morbid, melodramatic excess, is immensely watchable, sometimes hypnotically
so. You can feel the sleaze, smell the corruption, experience the
high of literally getting away with murder. You may be left breathless
and more than a bit bewildered by the twists and turns of Baitzs
"theres a dangerous deviate round every corner in Manhattan"
plot, but you really wont be bored. In its own perverse way,
this harrowing hybrid of sermon and thriller rocks.
Its been said that the character of Eli Wurman is patterned
after Bobby Zarem. I dont know what Zarem--a Southern Jew
who earned a law degree from Harvard and became a powerful New York
publicist--ever did to deserve being mentioned in the same sentence
with the pathetic sell-out played by Al Pacino. Zarem, of course,
denies any connection to the character, and who can blame him? What
can be said with certainty is that unsinkable Al, with his inimitable
eye-popping, slouching and slurring, adds still another memorable
portrait to his gallery of bone-weary losers who might be winners
if only they could get a good nights sleep. And its
good to see Ryan ONeal sink his pearly whites into the role
of a vain, manipulative matinee idol whose star is very much on
the wane. Kim Basinger, sweetly plaintive as the widow of Wurmans
brother, is equally welcome.
Any resemblance of the people in this movie to Rudy Giuliani, Al
Sharpton and Warren Beatty should probably not be dwelled upon.
And, as for me, I happen to like this town.