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Bret vs. Bret: A Review of the Informers

Written by: Tom Hardej, Special to CC2K

ImageThere are two Bret Easton Ellises now. There's the "real" one who wrote books like Less Than Zero, American Psycho, and The Informers. And then there's the "fictional" one who is a character in the book Lunar Park. (Which is written, actually, I think, by the "real" one. If you're confused, see also: One of them as co-written and co-executive produced a film version of The Informers, and I'm not sure which one it is. I'm going on a limb here, but I think it may be the phony one.

Now, it's not as if anyone really expects a whole lot of realism from Bret Easton Ellis.  The Informers is first and foremost supposed to be a satire, but the movie takes itself so seriously that it never quite finds the way to that.  Personally, I hate it when people compare movies to the books from which they’re based.  It shouldn’t matter how true to the book it stays, or how different it might be.  The movie should stand on its own without any comparison to its source material.  But here is one instance, where a book might have been a better medium.  Dialogue that sounds earnest and clunky in a movie, somehow can work on the page where you’re not required to take it wholly seriously.  In the book there are supernatural elements, that here got left on the cutting room floor (Brandon Routh was set to play a vampire), that would have at least given the movie a bit more flavor.

Luckily, the movie is cut into several intertwining storylines, so even though they mostly don’t work, there is still room for some good moments.  The story of Tim Price (played by Lou Taylor Pucci) and his dad on vacation in Hawaii was one high point.  But then it cuts, say, to the story of the awkward doorman slash actor, Jack, (Brad Renfo, in his last role before his death last year) and you’re left wondering how you even got into this theatre.  Mickey Rourke as an ex- and current- con, kidnapping a young kid and keeping him in Jack’s house, is a mess.  He looks the part, and, sure, I want Rourke 2.0 maybe in every movie, but there was something missing.  It doesn’t come together.

The other stories are about Graham (Jon Foster), his girlfriend Christie (Amber Heard), and their bisexual love triangle Martin (Austin Nichols), who happens to be sleeping with Graham’s mom (Kim Basinger), who by the way is considering not divorcing his dad, the head of a film studio, (Billy Bob Thornton) if he can stop his relationship with a news anchorwoman (Winona Ryder).  There’s also the story of a rock star (Mel Raido) with an attraction for underage kids.  See: it’s all very LA.  It’s all very 80s.  It’s all very LA in the 80s.  Everyone’s screwing everyone. (Though, for all the earnest talk of supposedly open sexuality, there’s not one shot with two guys even kissing, which seems dated and silly.)  But since it is the 80s, all this casual sex can only lead to one thing, and I don’t think we need Christie pointing out her legions, or long shots of the television news program warnings to tell us what it is.

See, that’s the problem.  There’s nothing subtle here.  It’s all very nihilist and whatever, but I need more than that.  The movie doesn’t so much end any of the stories, as it stops.  And again, if this were a book, you could ascertain meaning from that.  But in a movie, we need the visual.  We need the meaning.  We need more.  And maybe that’s too much to ask of all these characters, who, I guess, already have everything. 

It dawned on me pretty early on that the movie was going to lack a certain authenticity.  Sure, all of the actors really mean what they’re saying.  You can tell that they’re trying, but none of the performances really stand out.  Kim Basinger is right on the verge of doing well, but this is nothing compared to what she did in The Door in the Floor a few years ago.  And Billy Bob Thornton just looks gaunt, which fits into the scenery, of course, but is distracting somehow.  But it was just something about the way the characters were dressed in the opening party scene through me off.  They weren’t dressed like people in the 80s.  They were dressed like people in a movie about the 80s.  And that’s not quite the same thing.

The Informers: 3/10