April 27, 2010

Justify My Netflix: The Informant!

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

The Informant!

Today's movie: The Informant!, 2009 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because this is the latest by the almost always reliable Steven Soderbergh, a wacky comedy based on the true story of a corporate-corruption whistleblower who turned out to be as corrupt himself as the people he was turning in, and whose mental problems made him believe that he would not only get away with it but be hailed as a hero afterwards.

The reality: Freaking brilliant. In fact, based on my admittedly limited amount of Soderbergh knowledge (I've now seen eight of his eighteen films), I would actually rank this within the top five of his entire career; and this was a hugely pleasant surprise to learn, given that the film had been advertised as a goofy slight comedy to "hold us over" until Soderbergh's next Oscar-winning tome. But then again, in a way it's easy to see why clueless marketers trying to sell this to a bunch of brain-dead teabaggers might spin it that way, because the truth of this film is a much more complicated thing, something hard to adequately explain in thirty seconds; like I said, based on the real ordeal of Archer Daniels Midland employee Mark Whitacre, who turned in his company for price-fixing in the 1990s even while being guilty himself of massive personal embezzlement, and who was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia (or "bipolar disorder" to use the friendlier term) after the multiple layers of lies concerning his life were finally revealed, The Informant! is at points for sure the goofy comedy it was advertised as, but is in equal measure a heartbreaking drama about mental illness as well, a movie that slides effortlessly between farce and pathos with the professionalism that only a storytelling veteran like Soderbergh can deliver. It's one of those deceptively simple films that nonetheless get stuck under your skin, the kind you find yourself still randomly thinking about weeks or even months later; and given that only a handful of such films are even made anymore in Hollywood in any given year, it's something I think we should always celebrate when coming across it. Do yourself a favor and ignore this movie poster's silly 40 Year Old Virgin ripoff, and realize that you're in for a truly complex, truly special treat when renting this out.

Strangest piece of trivia: Matt Damon gained thirty pounds in order to play Whitacre, mainly by eating hamburgers and drinking dark beer every night for weeks, a process he described as "a true delight."

Worth your time? Absolutely

Filed by Jason Pettus at 7:38 AM, April 27, 2010. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |