The Informant! is about Mark Whitacre, a biochemist that became a VP at a Fortune 500 company and when he told what he thought was a white lie to keep the company from giving up on his project the company involved the FBI. Once the FBI was involved Mark felt the need to reveal his lie and tell the truth – his company participates in a worldwide industry conspiracy to create price fixing and secure their profit margin. Thus begins the tale of one of the most convoluted, confusing, true stories in the history of the FBI.
I love Steven Soderbergh. Since I first saw Out of Sight I’ve believed the man is a genius. However, I think The Informant! might be his first movie that I am truly disappointed in. The entire time I was watching The Informant! I felt like something was off; the pacing of this film just didn’t feel like it was completely thought out or finished. It felt rough, like the look and concept were not totally meshing with one another. The Informant! is based on a true story so I understand that Soderbergh and his people were somewhat limited with what they could do in terms of changing the time period, etc. but I’ve come to expect more polish, crispness and wit out of his comedies. Instead, this film felt dated and laboring.
Part of what turned me off of The Informant! was actually the main character of Mark Whitacre himself. While Matt Damon is a skilled actor, this is a character who is the dumbest genius on record, and who is almost completely unsympathetic. Whitacre narrates the film with his stream of consciousness thoughts and while that should be funny and endearing it manages to cross the line into insipid and annoying. At one point in the film I actually groaned when the narration started up again.
Whitacre’s wife Ginger is played by Melanie Lynskey. Most people know her from Two and a Half Men where she plays Rose, Charlie’s stalker. However, the project I remember her most from is Heavenly Creatures. I think Lunskey is a fantastic actress and I am glad she got a chance to work with Soderbergh; while I don’t think she’ll get the boost from The Informant! most of the stars in his other works have gotten, it is still an excellent thing to be able to say you’ve worked for someone like Soderbergh.
While I don’t think The Informant! is completely without merit it is not a film I will be adding to my DVD collection. I just think if I have to listen to Mark Whitacre question how polar bears hide their noses with their paw or the many uses of corn I may have to scream. If I want to watch a quirky FBI comedy I will just pop in Burn After Reading.
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writer: Scott Z. Burns
Mark Whitacre: Matt Damon
Ginger Whitacre: Melanie Lynskey
Agent Shepard: Scott Bakula
Mark Whitacre: Polar bears cover their noses before they pounce on a seal. How do polar bears know their noses are black? Did they look in the water one day, see their reflection and say, "Man, I'd be invisible if it wasn't for that thing."