Monday, October 26, 2009

Review - The Informant!

Matt Damon is wonderfully funny and surprisingly layered as Mark Whitaker in The Informant!, the true story of a man who suddenly becomes a mole for the FBI, making secret recordings of meetings which discuss price fixing in the lysine industry, only to have it all turn against him as the ensuing legal investigations uncover more of Whitaker's shady dealings than we bargained for. The key to Damon's illustration of Whitaker's character is the ubiquitous voice-over narration that allows us to sample his mile-a-minute and perpetually wandering mind. It's later revealed that there is a medical explanation to his quirks and his chronic lying. It isn't until this revelation that we can fully appreciate the complexity of Damon's performance, which is sneakily packaged in a somewhat corny comic turn.

Indeed, Stephen Soderbergh seems to embrace corniness in this film (no pun intended), as much of the comedy comes from Whitaker's own self-aggrandizement and bemusement in his new role as an FBI informant (with an exclamation mark!). It's rarely side-splitting, and begins to lag nearer the end of the movie, but it's far better that way than had Soderbergh tried desperately to tack on laughs that aren't needed. His script is appropriately muted and droll at the same time. Assisting with the levity of this film are the fun and delightfully cheesy rhythms of Marvin Hamlisch, who creates a kind of “bipolar” mock-up between retro spy movies and country bluegrass, a more thematically relevant combination than meets the ear.

There is a chance AMPAS may overlook this on account of it being too light, but consideration is certainly due for Damon, who should at the very least be up for a Golden Globe (Musical/Comedy). It also wouldn't surprise me if the Academy's music branch nominates Hamlisch, as they usually make room for a comedy in Original Score.

*** out of ****

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