On The Couch 16: The Informant! Apr23


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On The Couch 16: The Informant!

Yes! Finally! A Matt Damon movie where my girlfriend isn’t swooning over him. It would be pretty hard to in The Informant! Damon sports a bad toupee, big glasses, and a moustache. His character, Mark Whitacre looks like your middle-aged distant relative that dances funny at family weddings. You know who I’m talking about. That guy that you’re not sure how you’re related and you rely on your parents to remind you of his name because you only see him once every three years. Yeah, that guy. In other words, Matt Damon looks nothing like Matt Damon. He pulls a Charlise Theron from Monster in this movie, but in a funny way, and not a “Oh my God, are you effing kidding me? That’s Charlize Theron?!? No, burn my eyes out!” kind of way.

According to my girlfriend, this is my competition. Nice.

In The Informant!, Mark Whitacre works for ADM, a company that’s responsible for putting corn in everything we eat. The government decides to go after them, not for poisoning us with a diet of corn, this isn’t Food Inc., but for being involved in a global price-fixing scheme. When Scott Bakula, inhabiting the body of an FBI agent, shows up to investigate the company on a different matter, Whitacre spills the beans to him about the price-fixing and starts working as possibly the worst FBI informant ever. Somehow while loudly speaking into his microphone, showing off his briefcase tape recorder to an independent contractor, and letting people know about a raid in advance, he manages to help the FBI build a case against ADM. He also manages to royally screw himself over with all parties involved. Remember kids, greed plus ineptitude will get you into trouble.

Bad dog! Give Matt Damon back his toupee!

The Informant! has a lot of stand-up comedians playing FBI agents. I don’t know if this was done as a dig against the FBI. “Those FBI guys are a bunch of clowns!” Stephen Soderbergh might have yelled, “Let’s cast a bunch of stand-up comedians and the Quantum Leap guy as agents to show that!” “Wait, why include Scott Bakula? His show was sci-fi, not comedy,” his casting agent would ask. “Because Quantum Leap was ridiculous!” screams Soderbergh. “Have you ever seen it? He’s helped by a hologram holding a solar calculator with a bunch of Legos glued to it! Get me Bakula!” I’m not sure why I pictured Soderbergh being so maniacal in that casting meeting.  It might be because of the exclamation point at the end of The Informant!

This is what future-tech looked like in the late 80’s.

But there really are a lot of comedians playing FBI agents. This is quite possibly the second most serious role Joel McHale has ever played (the first of course being the Loan Officer in Spider-Man 2). Patton Oswalt and Paul Tompkins are also feds in this movie. It was like the government went out and recruited based on how many times Comedy Central plays your stand-up special at 3 AM.

You can judge the seriousness of any Joel McHale role based on the height of his hair.

Writing this entry, I’ve discovered how annoying it is for a movie to have punctuation in its title. Writing The Informant! in this sentence makes it look like I don’t know that capitalization goes at the beginning of a new sentence.

Since the majority of the movie takes place between 1992 and 1995, and Soderbergh uses specific dates on the screen, I was able to watch this movie and figure out what I was doing in my own life while these events were playing out. “Oh, look at that. The FBI raid happened on June 26, 1995. That was 2 days after my birthday and the day after I graduated high school.” Or… “April 2, 1992? That was the same night I stayed home from a school dance and watched a Return of the Jedi for the 978th time.” Needless to say, I wasn’t that popular in high school, but you know what? I have all my hair, no gut and no child molester moustache, so take that Matt Damon in The Informant!