The Videogum Movie Club: The Informant!
Summer movie season has definitely ended. When I walked into the theater on Friday night, OPENING NIGHT, there were only about 10 other people there. Now, granted, the discrepancy between the appeal of a thoughtful comedy about corporate malfeasance in the world of agro-business versus Harry Potter and the Temple of Mordor is greater than just seasonal changes. But with a 10.5 million dollar take for the weekend, The Informant! was still the number two movie in the country (behind Cloudy with a Chance of 6-Year-Olds), so, you know, the world has changed, I can feel it in the water.
All of that being said: The Informant! was a really good movie!
The first hour of the movie was almost painfully boring. My movie-going companion very nearly walked out. But I think that says more about my movie-going companion than it does about the movie, because I didn’t mind the boredom of the set-up, and it was important to what came next. In order to truly enjoy and understand how ridiculous and comical Mark Whitacre’s story is, you have to immerse yourself in the world of upper-management at a midwestern agro-business giant. And that world is a dull world, full of lysine production graphs and terrible suits. (Also, it is weird how terrible the ’90s looked. I don’t remember thinking much of it at the time, but clearly I was confused. We all were. If only there was a way to go back in time and burn everyone’s clothes and hair and faces off.)
It was only once you were drawn into this unassuming and poorly dressed world that you were finally able to appreciate how far it slipped off the rails, and how absurd Mark Whitacre’s story actually is. It is very absurd. Or, if not absurd, then the painful result of some genuine mental instability. But that sounds less funny.
So many smart choices were made. Like the ’60s James Bond style graphics because Mark Whitacre thought he was a special agent. And the way the manic-depressive voice over came to a grinding halt when he’d run out of lies. And the casting of so many comedian eastereggs for the comedy nerd superfans. Patton Oswalt and Paul F. Tompkins and Scott Adsit and Joel McHale and Tony Hale and Andy Daly and even the Smothers Brothers. THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS! None of the comedians even did anything funny, really, but they were there. Their FUNNY AURA was there, or whatever.
And Matt Damon was great! He is a pretty good actor sometimes. It’s weird that no one has ever heard of him. My favorite line in the whole movie was probably when he was in the Econo-Lodge parking lot explaining how there was no point in making tapes of ADM executives talking about price fixing because there wasn’t going to be any more price fixing and then he said “so if I make tapes there won’t be anything on them and they’ll just be stupid tapes.” Stupid tapes, haha. But there were other really funny lines I’m probably forgetting. Don’t hold me accountable to this claim of favoritism.
It is kind of funny that Hollywood wouldn’t let Steven Soderbergh (one of the best directors in the game, easily) make Moneyball with Brad Pitt, but they would let him make this. Huh? I mean, if you don’t want to let him make Moneyball, don’t let him make Moneyball, I’m not in charge of what Hollywood does (yet), but if you’re going to balk (get it?) at him making Moneyball then maybe you should have also balked at him making a movie about the white collar crimes of a bi-polar executive at Archers Daniel Midland in 1993. But I am glad that they did not balk.
Anyway: very good movie. Three thumbs up. High five. Right?