AWFJ Women On Film – “The Informant!” – Susan Granger reviews

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Are you ready for whistleblowing as an absurdist comedy? Because that’s the way Steven Soderbergh has re-imagined the true-life story of dementedly delusional Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon), a top executive/Ph.D. biochemist and the youngest divisional president at Archer Daniels Midland, a Decatur, Illinois-based agribusiness, who – after learning about a Japanese extortion scheme in 1992 – decides to expose his company’s multi-national price-fixing conspiracy to the FBI.

Driving a Porsche, living with his wife Ginger (Melanie Lynskey) in a suburban mansion, he has devoted himself for years to turning corn into profit but now he’s toting wiretapping equipment, working as a ‘confidential informant.’ Once that happens, high-strung Mark is hooked into the spy world, referring to himself as Agent 0014 “because I’m twice as smart as James Bond” and spinning enough tall tales to utterly confuse the FBI agents (Scott Bakula, Joel McHale) who have been assigned to handle the case. Then there’s the indisputable fact that Mark has pocketed some $9 million in kickbacks.

Steven Soderbergh’s ambiguously ironic concept, based on a non-fiction thriller by Ken Eichenwald, bears more of a stylistic resemblance to “Catch Me If You Can” and “Burn After Reading” than serious big-business skullduggery exposes like “Erin Brockovich,” “Norma Rae” or “The Insider.” Yet its ditsy originality stems from screenwriter Scott Z. Burns’ (“The Bourne Ultimatum”) invention of Mark’s antic, extensive voiceover narration, an internal monologue that serves as indisputable evidence of his bipolar disorder. And credit Marvin Hamlisch for setting the delirious tone with his effervescent musical score.

But it’s really Matt Damon’s show. Piling on 30 pounds, wearing a hairpiece and mustache, along with steel-rimmed glasses, and pitching his voice higher than usual, he channels the manic energy that makes the undeniable charm of Mark’s character work, aided and abetted by supporting actors like the Smothers Brothers, Tom Wilson and Tom Papa. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Informant!” is a subversive, hide-and-sneaky 7, verifying that “Everyone in this country is a victim of corporate crime by the time they finish breakfast.”

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.