The Informant! (2009)
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Stars: Matt Damon, Scott Bakula, Joel McHale and many others…
You’re supposed to laugh at The Informant! The director, Soderbergh (one of my favorites), is clear from the first superimposed words that this film is based on a true story, but some scenes and conversations have been changed to make it more enjoyable to you, the viewer. Then, he puts, “So there” at the end of this notification! Adding to this tongue in cheek presentation is the musical score they used. However, about ten minutes into this satire from last year, I found myself almost distracted by the music. Not sure if you’ll remember the “Gee, golly, wow” brand of music of the 1950s? Basically, I’m referring to those tracks which usually played in “How to be a great housewife” films and any instructional vid, really, from the 1950s. I guess the term I’m looking for to describe this music is somewhere between boisterous, easy-to-whistle-to, pleasant – and to use a 1950s term – gay (as in unquenchably happy). Well, that’s the music that Soderbergh and his composer, Marvin Hamlisch used in The Informant! So why was I having so much trouble laughing at this picture?
Probably because the subject matter is so difficult to laugh at… The story concerns essentially a biopic of bold-faced liar Mark Whitacre. The character is based on a true-life individual by the same name: but this wasn’t a documentary, it was a “dramedy”, I suppose? A white-collar satire? Whatever genre you want to classify it as, I think it’s a tough watch and here’s why:
1. We get enough tales of corruption and white collar malfeasance (that’s right, I just used “malfeasance” in a sentence like Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life) in our daily newspaper and online news sources to be first in line to see such a film on Friday night of opening weekend.
2. We all personally know or have known liars: dealing with them is not necessarily pleasant or funny. I mean, even if a story involving a liar starts off funny, it usually ends anything but.
3. Don’t mean to ruin anything for you in this movie, but the lies just keep on coming. And coming. And with each new truth that contradicts a Whitacre lie, the reactions of the lawyers and FBI personnel involved in the case continue to be funny; but you start to feel like taking a shower.
Like all Soderbergh pictures, from Out of Sight to Traffic (both of which will feature rather lengthy commentaries on this blog), The Informant! entertains and challenges you. How would you deal with a Marc Whitacre if your lives crossed paths? How are you dealing with “him” today? Would you be in agreement if I shared with you that I really never, ever want to do business of any kind with the FBI? Will I end this entry with a question?
NOTE: My thinking regarding why the title includes an exclamation point is as follows… have you ever read the comic strip “Dagwood and Blondie”? Usually the last frame of the strip includes one character doing or saying something outrageous and another character reacting to the first – with an exclamation point above their head. It’s as if the comic strip’s author is saying, “Hey look, this character is so shocked at the other character, all they can do is stare at them with an open mouth and an exclamation point above their head!” So, if we apply the “Dagwood and Blondie” world to The Informant!, Soderbergh is kind of predicting his audience’s reaction to his story… Makes total sense, right?