thatcow

Tremendous Character Piece, Lousy Plot

Eli Wurman is a famed publicist in New York City, a job which depends much on having numerous contacts, hence the title of the film. Eli also an old school liberal, and has had his picture taken with many figures at the height of the civil rights movement. His personality is an interesting combination of self-deprecating mannerisms and lofty ideals, so it's not a surprise that he's down to his last client in his publicity business.

The film takes place over roughly twenty four hours. We start with Eli throwing together a last minute fundraiser for the defense of some wrongly imprisoned black boys. At the same time, he is called out to assist his one client to prevent a scandal when his addictive-personality actress girlfriend, Jilli Hopper, lands in jail following a significant bender. Eli is supposed to put her on a plane, but bends to her will in packing and retrieving something from the party she was at.

That party turns out to be a high-class sex and drug orgy. Poor Eli seems dreadfully embarrassed to be there, and even more so for recognizing some of the people there. The code of secrecy surrounding it all has a very familiar ring to it.

The plot comes off a bit like Eyes Wide Shut crossed up with a Mr. Magoo cartoon. Eli ends up drugged himself and spends the night in Jilli's bathtub, from which he witnesses her murder. When he leaves the next day - disoriented and groggy, which is not an unusual state for him - he does not have any recollection of what happened. There's an item left in his pocket which these party folk want desperately - apparently Jilli was looking to use this to blackmail them. But Eli walks around, focusing on getting the right people to his benefit - mainly getting a prominent black Reverand and the Mayor to get along.

Watching Al Pacino flesh out this character is a joy - the mannerisms, the speech, all blend together to great effect. The problem is that the plot has been needlessly sacrificed in the name of character. I understand the intention - that it's not so important what's going on around him, but how Eli is reacting to it. But the way that's done here leaves too many loose plot points which just hang there as a distraction. It is possible to do this right, but the events in the plot have been allowed to become too important, too mysterious, to not be answered. It's a damn shame, because this character in a different movie could have made for a tremendous experience

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