much like one of our favorite actors nicolas cage, al pacino is often accused of overacting. i don’t thinking overacting necessarily equals bad. sometimes it’s an asset to the movie (raising arizona, wild at heart, leaving las vegas, face/off, con air, bad lieutenant: port of call new orleans, heat, glengarry glen ross) while other times it makes a mundane movie entertaining (peggy sue got married, vampire’s kiss, deadfall, kiss of death, snake eyes, wicker man 2006, scent of a woman, any given sunday, devil’s advocate). and then there are times when they actually act and no one showed up (bringing out the dead, matchstick men, the weather man, lord of war, adaptation, it could happen to you, donnie brasco, the insider, s1mone, looking for richard). despite the quality of the movie, there are always that cage/pacino moment that you look forward to in their movies. people i know belongs to that last category where no one showed up. it was shelved for two years before finally being released in never more than eight theatres while gigli, righteous kill, 88 minutes and the likes invaded theatres by the thousands.
directed by dan algrant(naked in new york, sex and the city) and written by jon robin baitz, al pacino plays eli wurman, an over the hill new york publicist modeled after the real life beloved new york publicist bobby zarem. zarem is credited with the i love new york campaign (the actual city, not the reality show). the movie takes the a-day-in-the-life-of structure that reminds me of wonder boys, with a darker tone. wurman’s one goal, at least in the beginning of the movie, is a liberal event where he hopes for prominent appearances of the rich and famous. much like michael douglas’ character in wonder boys, pacino’s wurman is also under heavy influence of pills, health problems, and ethical dilemmas. complications ensued when his one major client(ryan o’neal from love story and zero effect) asks him for a favor involving a drug addicted actress(tea leoni from family man and deep impact) and a technologically questionable recording device.
but the ill-conceived recording device is simply the macguffin. algrant and baitz aren’t really interested in that as a whole. take away the marketing of the movie, people i know is mostly a character study. in fact, that’s what i love about it. throughout most of the movie, i simply do not know where the movie is heading. scenes after scenes go from noir to drama to mystery to paranoid thriller to showbiz satire to political parable to morality tale. even though it contains simliar structure and subject matter, this free form escape from a specific genre is way more effective than s1mone or 88 minutes. many elements in this movie would have been utilized as a genre exercise but instead, the focus never strays from the pacino character and buries the pulp elements just below surface.
one of the major problems with the movie is pacino’s southern accent. even though the inspiration for his character zarem is from georgia, i really don’t see why they have stick with it in the movie. especially after you got someone with such an iconic voice as pacino in your movie. this may ruin the whole movie for some people. another major complaint is that elements of the event that kicks off the movie is similar to eyes wide shut. but that’s like saying every other action movie is not as good as die hard and therefore not worth watching. there are also some invalid complaints about the time period/cultural references in the movie but they are minor enough for them to be considered nitpicking.
there is something about the ultimate lesson of the movie that sticks with me. in the opening credit, we see photos of pacino’s character with martin luther king jr., jfk, and such. later we learn that he quitted lawyering to be a showbiz publicist and now ryan o’neal is his only major client. his major fundraising event obviously means a lot to him, but we never really know whether is because of fame and fortune to have big stars appearing or if it’s his former idealistic self. or maybe a little of both. from what we generalize of each decade from the 60s to the 90s, the ending is extremely appropriate.
that and i just can’t turn down any movie that takes place in a big city at night. see also, hamlet 2000.
p.s. the movie was apparently delayed due to a negative potrayal of the new york city mayor, after 9-11. it’s kind of ironic since the main character is responsible for the i love new york campaign. it’s merely mentioned and touched on in the movie, not that much of an issue overall. the last decade has pretty much made that a non-issue.