The Bipolar Informant

the-informantHave you ever known a guy that you thought was unquestionably brilliant in some crazed way, yet everyone else dismissively said, "he’s just weird?" Well, Matt Damon is that guy in Warner Brother's new release The Informant!. Like the weird character Damon plays, this movie has a lot of jokes that many people just won't get; the audience I saw it with proved a good example. However, if you do get the jokes, and they are very entertaining, then you will probably stop laughing once their implications set in.

Director Steven Soderbergh has assembled an army of off-beat comedians, asking them to deliver the driest wit with the straightest of faces, and ultimately succeeds in unearthing one of America's greatest scams in the process -- corn. Damon's character, Mark Whitacre, is prone to rattling off seemingly random chains of information in his head, a trait that is presented in a comic light, but it's important to know two things: Mark Whitacre is a real person, and the information he's rambling off is all true. Americans really are being ripped off every day by the time they sit down to eat breakfast, and price fixing is only the beginning.

Playing a quirky and highly intelligent character with some specific compulsions seems to be turf Matt Damon has tread before in The Talented Mr. Ripley, but while walking in a very different direction. Where the charming Tom Ripley was highly secretive, Mark Whitacre is unable to shut up. However, both live double existences, trapped somewhere between their ideals and the sins they have to justify while striving for the ideals. Oddly, this movie has far more disturbing undertones than the homicide-inclined nature of Damon's previous character. The Informant! is not about one man's dark secret, but rather the perversions of capitalism and the underbidding of the American dream that are leading to the eventual collapse of a nation.

As strong as Damon’s performance is, this is an ensemble piece ,and he is backed by actors such as Tony Hale (Arrested Development), Scott Bakula (Enterprise, Quantum Leap), and Ann Dowd, who you probably don’t know by name but will most likely recognize when you see them. Moreover, all get laughs without playing for them. These performances aren't about direct comedy; it is their frustrations that are funny. Marvin Hamlisch's music captures this comic element but, combined with Damon's mustache and other visual cues, seems to place the movie in an era earlier than the '90s, which is when it's suppose to take place.

The most frightening element about this funny film is its illustration of how the sins of the individual can easily overshadow the far more dangerous sins of a far-reaching corporate entity. The comedy points at issues that are anything but funny: price fixing, genetically engineered corn and its total invasion into the world of our food and, most frightening of all, how easy it is for a corporate-level conspiracy to successfully divert attention from its own dubious doings with the smoke-screen of one man's follies. - C. Jefferson Thom

cj_thom

Mr. Thom lives in New York City and walks dogs, writes plays, and loves dissecting pop culture.

A Teasing "Guy"

This review is a letdown of sorts. After Mr. Thom utilized "guy" three times in his first three sentences, I was looking forward to meeting many more "guys" throughout the review. Not enough reviewers today try to get by on a limited vocabulary. I think they should. It makes film criticism more primitive. More verile. More intense. After Mr. Thom showed promise of being a such a vocabulary-challenged writer in the beginning of his text, he's squandered his promise. He later goes on to use the word "entity." There was no need for that. It breaks up the consistency of the piece. His guise shatters.

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