I know I'm not the
smartest guy in the world, and probably not even the smartest
guy fighting over the Cheese Puffs they put out during "happy
hour" at Binker's. If I were, I probably would be the one spitting
in the bowl, not the one digging for the best of what's loogie-free.
So, maybe The Informant is a joke that went over my head.
Probably not, though. Probably it's just another one of Steven
Soderbergh's fancy, artsy bullshit experiments that he expects
us to pay for. That might be okay, too, if the movie were sold
as an experiment, but it's not. It's advertised as a comedy
romp, something the quote whores can call "hilarious" and a
"laugh riot." It's not. It's just a bad lab exercise.
is based on a true story, but in the same way what I told Mrs.
Filthy the scratches on my face came from doing charity work
with kittens. That is, there is some element of truth, but it's
been distorted and fucked up in the service of trying to make
a better narrative. Matt Damon, going for Oscar gold with a
prosthetic nose and a flabby stomach, plays Mark Whitacre, an
executive with Archer Daniels Midland, a humongous company that
makes the shit that makes cheap food. Stuff like corn-based
sugars and amino acids. In the 90s, ADM got popped for fixing
prices with their foreign competitors. And when they fixed prices,
it raised the cost of nearly everything those of us too poor
to eat fresh fruits and vegetables eat. It was a big fucking
deal. They got hundredsof millions in fines.
In real life, Whitacre
served as a voluntary informant for the FBI, providing them
access to meetings and conversations that proved the company's
executive's guilt. All the while that Whitacre was helping the
FBI he was also embezzling millions of dollars from ADM.He was
a money-grubbing climber, who gave a big shit about status,
the cars he drove and the house he lived in. His delusion was
that by turning in everyone else at ADM, he'd be the last man
standing and be picked to lead the company.
tell the story straight. Actually, he does a pretty shitty job
of telling the story. That's a shame because it could have been
a pretty fucking greatmovie about white-collar assholeishness.
Instead, Soderbergh's too busy obfuscating the story with gimmicky,
Laugh-In-era wacky music and 70s-era Hendrix-poster graphics.
It's not a very easy fit to the story and it sticks out like
a skinny girl at the Country Buffet's pudding tray. In fact,
it felt to me a lot like what it was: a director bored with
his story trying to pile on shit that amused him, but not necessarily
the audience. The wacky music is especially distracting. I expected
Goldie Hawn to pop up and yell "Sock it to me!" But there just
isn't that much wacky about an executive walking through a drab
office, no matter how jaunty the tune.
In the attempt to
make wack out of the the Informant, Soderbergh has Damon
play Whitacre as a complete jackass. There is never any sense
of how this guy got to be president of a huge division of a
multi-billion dollar corporation, how difficult it was to embezzle,
how sophisticated the workplace, or even how he remembers to
put his pants on after his underwear; he's just a jackass.
Soderbergh doesn't even want to portray him as a person, just
a caricature. Damon tells increasingly stupid lies, makes ADD
observations about everything in voiceovers that are neither
interesting or necessary, just a lot like sitting with a hyperactive
seven-year-old at a Chuck E. Cheese birthday party so big you
figure you can eat and they won't notice you weren't invited.
He acts increasingly erratic, basically broadcasting that he's
acting as informant for the FBI. There is no sense of how a
real person could fuck shit up this bad, or even get into the
position to. Neither is there any sense in the movie of why
Whitacre embezzles or snitches. Why does he like the nice cars
or feel he needs eight of them? Why does he lie about his childhood?
How corrupt is ADM's culture? I'm not saying we need the same
old shitty pop-psychology lesson that Hollywood loves schooling
us on. I'm suggesting a little understanding of the main character
as more than the world's most depressing sketch-comedy character
would makes jokes funnier.
While I'm on the
subject of comedy, there isn't much, not nearly as much as promised
or implied by the way the movie is shot. The Informant
sets up the silly music, the crazy graphics and the bouncy step
in everyone's walk, then doesn't do a Goddamn thing with it.
It's all setup for a punchline that never comes, as though someone
thought wacky music in itself was funny. Which, anyone who ever
bought a whole Weird Al record knows isn't true. Partially,
the movie's problem the crimes at the heart are too real and
serious to be funny or treated this superficially. Partially
it's because Soderbergh is way more interested in whatever experiment
he's attempting here than he is in making a movie worth watching,
What a shame. With
The Informant Soderbergh has extracted what could have
been entertaining about white-collar crime, and replaced it
with an academic exercise in "entertainment." And all we really
learn is that Soderbergh isn't funny, and may not even know
what that is. Two Fingers.
to tell Filthy Something?