“The Informant!”

 Monday afternoon, after spending a lovely three hours in the morning with my dentist getting some old crowns removed in order to replace them with lovely new ones and finding out my cobra dental insurance is crap; I decided to go to a new movie release.  (I also needed to get away from my cats.  All they want from me is food and they know I’m weak. So my best judgment hinted to me, “Get out of the house!”)

Anyway, I saw Soderbergh’s “The Informant” starring Matt Damon, who I generally like and who I really liked in the “Bourne” series.  (One of the best action/thriller/hero/spy kinds of movies I’ve seen.  I thought he was exceptional in those.)

I’d read that it was “Coen” (brother)-like and the TV trailers for it seemed fun so I anticipated it with some good feeling.  But ten to twenty minutes into it I was having a hard time staying awake and I wondered it the movie would improve.

I was waiting for the “Coen” ironic tweak and biting satirical tang, but whoever I read that made the comparison was reaching a bit too far.

Now Soderbergh has had his moments, of course–Sex, Lies, and Videotape is a masterpiece of minimalist introspection of a kind of video graphic social perversion–and the more mainstream “Oceans” are fun, but this is no Coen brothers movie.

Indeed, with Marvin Hamlish’s satirically intended 70’s/80s score, the yellow tint of the film production, and supporting wardrobe and accompanying “primitive” technological background (including the film graphics which echoed/represented a more primitive, almost Mary Richards generation of episode highlighting and Damon’s ancient auto), the film was more like something from the late 70s and early eighties than how it was represented in the +/- biopic of the 1990s that it pretended to portray.

The film reminded me more of Gus Van Sant’s dark comedy/biopic To Die For starring Nicole Kidman as the straight-laced, wannabe celebrity TV journalist who goes to any length to get to the top similar in so many ways to Damon’s seemingly innocent hero Mark Whitacre who ends up, like Kidman’s Susan Stone-Maretto, caught up in a web of his own lies and company malfeasance and illegalities.

Of course, those who will see this current release and have seen To Die For will notice a couple of significant differences in the “heroic/ironic” representations.  Whitacre represents himself and his story pretty much with his own narration and commentary whereas Stone-Maretto is narrated and evaluated by others after the fact (of her “hit” paid for by the father of her dead husband) in video interviews.  Whitacre serves time in prison for his offenses and suffers bipolar disorder which partially relieves him of responsibility or at least puts into doubt his capacity for bilking ADM of over nine million dollars and successfully deceiving and manipulating lawyers and the FBI for years to support his crusade against ADM, but eventually is released and now serves as the COO of a company and is on medication for his psychological disorder.  Stone-Maretto is murdered for her deceptions and ambition.  She didn’t get a chance to redeem herself.

I won’t take the time to comment extensively on glaring differences in gender representations here except to add a couple of other noteworthy differences between the hero and “heroine.”  Whitacre is a good family man who has married, has a supportive wife and children including adopted children.  Stone-Maretto’s aggressive career path didn’t include children, which troubled the patriarchally controlled Italian family of his husband (who ended up arranging the “hit”).

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