Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Madadayo, Used DVD's! - #4: Bret Easton Ellis' THE INFORMERS

Oh what a web we weave, when we live in Los Angeles...

The Informers is drenched in the 1980's; mostly in the synth/techno-driven music but also in the clothes and some (though not all) of the hair, and the dedication to debauchery, drugs, sex, and everything that else comes with the high life when you got money.  Well, let me rephrase this then: the 1980's from a certain point of view.  Reaganomics, baby! 

That of course is from Bret Easton Ellis, the man who has two of the masterful, black-death satirical, quintessential 80's books, Less Than Zero and American Psycho, albeit the latter came out in 1991 it concerns that decade and a mind-set and way of living.  He wrote the book this film, which was directed by Gregor Jordan, was based on but also (co)wrote the script.  Later he had some harsh words about the adaptation and how it was brought to the screen.  Can't blame him.

Ok, naked Amber Heard smoking weed, we good?  Let's move on.
It's one of those multi-story-line type of movies, kind of like Short Cuts if you took out 2/3rds of it and left it out to bake in the LA heat for a few days.  Among the lines (some pun intended) that are laid out here: Billy Bob Thornton as a sleazy movie producer (mostly in his adultery and the movies he makes, Thornton plays him straight) and what his affair with a newscaster played by Winona Ryder is doing to his marriage with Kim Basinger's pill-popping depressive wife.  Their kids are also in the loop of a drug culture, and among this (as the film opens) a young man gets run over by a car while... just standing around getting into shit with another pretty-looking yuppie 20-something, and dies.

In the midst of this, Amber Heard is a party girl - she's mostly naked through the whole movie for you "fappening" assholes out there - but getting too close to the edge of going over-board.  There's a hotel bellboy at one of these places, the late Brad Renfro's final performance (he's good but not much used), and he's connected to Mickey Rourke's super-sleazy criminal who kidnaps a kid for some sort of... well, don't want to get into too much here.

Suffice to say Rourke is Rourke, playing it tough and stoic and not much else.  Which is fine, up to a point.  But did he just wander on set to play the role, or could Jordan give him sufficient direction to broaden the character at all, who knows, it could be the script?  He gives enough presence just to make the scenes go by, neither his finest nor worst work. 

Oh, and there's a rock star in the midst as well, coming from England to perform in a concern, shoot lots of heroin, and be miserable as he listens to over-blown movie pitches for gaudy rock spectacle movies - and the young people in the movie are fans of his.  There's also other relationship stuff, Basinger at one point fucks one of the yuppie guys with the wild-and-whatever 80's hair, and someone shoots a music video.

So a lot of THINGS happen in the movie.  And some of the actors are actually game for this.  Basinger really brings her all to the material, in scenes where she tries her best to hold back - a family dinner where the intentions of estranged husband and wife getting back together after a separation nearly comes apart due to tension on all sides - and when she explodes and confronts her husband for being such an asshole.  She goes for broke in that scene and a couple of others, but I felt like the script could have been stronger, that she had to go that much harder into the melodrama to make it click at all.  Same for Winona Ryder's few scenes, though she doesn't have as complicated a character to play (her big moment is actually at a restaurant confronted by obnoxious fans).

Well... at least Ifans isn't the Lizard from Amazing Spider-Man...
It actually starts promisingly, with this group of young people and their drama, some 'soap' some 'melo' in nature, involving the aftermath of this guy dying.  What are they to do?  Does it matter?  Oh, and there's another side involving Harry Connick Jr (I think - no, Chris Isaak, sorry) and his son and him being a womanizing jerk... And then... more things.  Like, get this you guys: AIDS!

Well, maybe it IS an accurate portrait of Reagan era 80s, with all its aimless LA people unsure what to do if it doesn't mean fucking up or fucking others or fucking over or all kinds of 'fuck'.  But it flails about in its second act, and the director see-saws too much between this material becoming soap opera and actual penetrating drama.   It's frustrating, and I think it may be more on how Jordan gets these people to go in a scene, to work with material that if not played for the icky satire it is deep down can be just ugly stuff on practically all irredeemable characters/situations.  Like, pick one and stick with it guy!  It also doesn't help when people who COULD be better, like Amber Heard, don't have anywhere to go - by the end the thought I had was: who cares?

Twin Peaks: 90210
In other words, it's a fine line to tread, reveling in the decadence and bawdiness and errors of people who have a lot of money and a lot of time and have lost their ways and hearts and minds completely, and criticizing it, or finding new interesting ground to probe.  The Informers doesn't get there.  

And with that rock star... is he fully a vampire?  I thought that was the idea in the book, but I digress, sort of.

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