©2009 Big Empire Industries and Randy Shandis Enterprises
Every right imaginable is reserved.


This week:
The Informant!

Filthy says:
"The zippy fucking music made me eat a finger."

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.

The Informant 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.

Soderbergh doesn't 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, or entertaining.

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.

Want to tell Filthy Something?



Liz Smith of Variety

Of My One and Only, "Don't dare miss this adorable movie"

Seriously, you don't want to piss off Liz Smith, so you better go. Today.

Filthy's Reading
Nick Reding- Methland

Listening to
Robyn Hitchcock- Spooked


Office Space