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?

Comments (37)
  1. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • Thom  |   Posted on Sep 21st, 2009 +1

      Steven Soderbergh is the Ryan Adams of directors.

    • I dunno if it’s the ugliest…the yellow was part of the stylization and I think it helped make the red camera look better, actually, especially when you compare it to the two scenes that are shot in normal kind of light, where everything’s much too sharp and strange, and the editing, I dunno, I didn’t see anything wrong with it. I really like this movie, and I don’t mind his sense of humor, style and timing. But then again, I’d pick schizopolis over traffic any day, so maybe our tastes are not compatible.

    • Isn’t using the hideous yellow sort of the point? It communicates something about the time and place, etc. Did you want it to be very beautiful looking? Wouldn’t that be in stark contrast to the characters and therefore visually confusing?

      I will never understand people who’ve taken a few film classes. It’s almost as though they don’t understand that movies are sometimes made for people who aren’t loyal subscribers to all things Criterion.

      • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  2. I didn’t dislike this movie very much. See… It’s fun to be confusing. That’s so silly tapes.

    • You got rid of Bob?

      I did not see this movie but my mom and dad called me from In-n-Out Burger to tell me they liked it, so.

      • Bob left awhile ago. I’m sure he will return after he has taken this girl to the black lodge. Anyway, it was Veedon Fleece for the last 6 months.

        I also told my parent’s to see this movie. I’m awaiting their feedback from Five Guys.

  3. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  4. I ate up all the comedian eastereggs. Nom nom nom. And the movie was enjoyable, but I don’t recall the 90′s looking like that. Then again, I spent most of that decade completely stoned.

  5. gabe, what is up with you liking things lately?

  6. Great movie. You’re right about the best line. I also really enjoyed the incredible narration. Every time his voice over came on I was very excited to hear it. It always got a great laugh.

    “Quart. Quart. Quart…”

    Matt Damon was outstanding.

    Something minor I noticed: Scott Bakula made a lot of strange facial expressions delivering his lines that threw a few of the people around me off.

    Very good movie. I’m glad to see that comedies don’t have to be chock full of nut shots and Judd Apatow’s people to be great. (I like Judd Apatow and his people. I’m pretty much against nut shots in comedy movies, for the most part. Overdone.)

  7. As a lover of avocados I could not help but laugh after: Who wants that texture in their mouth? ha! On the whole, it looked like a movie that was more fun to make, than it was to watch.

  8. You guys sure do go to the movies a lot around here. I’m too poor to be in the Videogum Movie Club. ;(

  9. I really loved the music in this film. At first during the set-up part I thought it was kind of annoying and didn’t really make much sense, but then as Mark Whitacre’s life sort of spiraled out of control it became really appropriate and sort of a nice touch.

    Also this movie gave me another reason to love Joel McHale. His deadpan expressions were amazing.

  10. Really enjoyed this too. It became funnier as it went, like the whole film was a joke and the punchline was told bit by bit, until you leave the theater laughing at the absurdity of the whole thing. I’m glad it was chosen for the Movie Club, I wouldn’t have seen if I wasn’t a member!

  11. Soderbergh is actually a terrific editor…maybe not so much a good DP, but his editing is thoughtful and creative and always pitch perfect. When it drags, it drags for a very specific reason. Everything with Scott Bakula was superb…the subtle way it showed that him and Joel McHale were actually not terribly good FBI agents to begin with. I really enjoyed this one.

  12. I wish I could participate in these review sessions, but I’m too much of an old lady to go to opening weekends anymore. I end up telling teenagers to shut up half the time, it’s too frustrating. Gabe, I am the Valerie to your Miracle Max.

  13. This movie was great. I went in without knowing much about it, but within the first five minutes I realized that they did this exact story in an episode of This American Life a few years back, and actually played some of the tapes that were made. He really did have recordings of guys joking that they hoped no one in the room was wearing a wire while they fixed prices. Check it out.

  14. Not to get all sports douche on you, Gabe, but the biggest problem with Moneyball (in considering its estimated cost) is that the Moneyball methodologies and the ideas behind those methodologies are relatively outdated, in a big way. This book has and will always be better suited as a documentary, something that doesn’t re-elaborate upon the books anecdotes and ideas, but rather something that expounds upon the marks of Moneyball still around today.

  15. Heather V.   |   Posted on Sep 21st, 2009 +2

    I was really, really excited to see this movie. And I left feeling rather “meh.” It wasn’t awful, but it certainly wasn’t the thrill-com-dram I was expecting. Mostly, it just felt REALLY LONG, even though it was only, like, 108 minutes. Damon did a great job, but after about 35 minutes, I got pretty bored. And sorry, but I didn’t get the weird 70s font meshed with the 60s soundtrack.

  16. I’m going to have disagree with Gabe on this one. I enjoyed it initially, particularly the way we get to hear Damon’s inane thoughts, but it just becomes too repetitive. First, he’s lying to Quantum Leap. Then he’s lying to Patton Oswalt *about* Quantum Leap. Then lying to Paul F. Tompkins *about* Patton Owsalt, etc. I’m also not often a fan of using recognizable actors/comedians in bit parts. It pulls you out of the story, and you’re just playing “I Wonder When the British Guy from The Daily Show is Going to Pop Up.” I have this same problem with Hurt Locker and Thin Red Line, two movies I otherwise love.

  17. Grinchy Paws  |   Posted on Sep 21st, 2009 0

    I work at ADM and i live in decatur. God, I hope this is funny.

  18. Wasn’t this movie originally supposed to be called “Corn!”? I was sort of disappointed when they changed it (if, in fact, it was changed). I was really looking forward to saying, “I’m going to see CORN!” But for some reason that doesn’t carry over to The Informant! I just feel like saying that movie title in a declarative way.
    By the way, I’m insane. Like, critically mentally damaged. That’s the only explanation for these obsessions. Sorry to bring this down on you. Corn!

  19. Oh HEYYY  |   Posted on Sep 21st, 2009 -1

    Informant wasn’t half as good as I expected it to be.

    You should have had Jennifer’s Body as the Movie Club movie! Diablo Cody still has her Juno schtick but I actually enjoyed it very much. I LOL’d at more than one point in the movie, and it was stupid enough for me to not care.

  20. I thought there were definitely funny parts to the movie (stupid tapes, polar bears’ noses, etc.) but by the end I totally didn’t think that it was in any way a comedy? Instead of seeing it as an absurd romp through the laughable trivialities of corporate America, I just saw it as one big framework around this character that we never really understood because he is a compulsive individual with serious issues centered around these techniques that he (and many, many intelligent people) use to try to manipulate the world to their own twisted reality. It was like a huge joke, and the punch-line was an isolated, sad, and repressed mind. So maybe it is a comedy, if half of comedy is surprise and it is all one big joke

  21. I’m not gonna lie, this movie reeked for real. I just don’t get it. This directors style is just so smug. I had the same problems here that I had with the Oceans movies but at least those were exciting! This was really boring and even predictable in some ways, and I usually like ‘boring’ movies, I only laughed out loud at ‘stupid tapes’ the whole movie. Laughing at anything else would have been a stretch. I’m glad that some people in my theater we’re enjoying it though, but this kind of humor kind of makes me sick.

  22. I was really high when I saw this movie a few weeks ago. I thought it was awesome.

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