May 19, 2010
REDBOX RENTAL REVIEW OF THE WEEK: THE INFORMANT! & BROTHERS
Have you stayed awake at night hankering to see Matt Damon operate as an overweight, thick mustached, balding corporate exec during the early 90's? Well hanker no more. The Informant! is a slow paced, quick-witted, off beat dramedy based on the true story of Mark Whitacre, president of the bio products division at Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), turned FBI informant. Just imagine, if you can, a gainfully employed, more endearing George Costanza. This, my friends, is Mark Whitacre. A lovable loser played to perfection by Matt Damon.
I cannot say enough about Damon's performance in this film. He should have been nominated for his role in this film in addition to his role in the underwhelming Invictus which he was alternately nominated for. From opening scene to closing credits he puts the film squarely on his back and at times solely carries the load. I dare you to try to name one film that he has been in that was a disappointment. What's that you say? All The Pretty Horses and Stuck On You.. Okay, okay but, for the most part he has a near spotless track record.
Steven Soderbergh returns to form, directing his best work since Traffic and Oceans Eleven. Scott Bakula, (Quantum Leap anyone?), and host of E! channel's The Soup, Joel Mchale, do a fantastic job in their surprisingly dry and serious supporting roles as FBI agents assisting Whitacre.
My only complaint is the R-rating could have easily been avoided and the films slow pacing put my wife to sleep once in the theatre and twice while watching at home. Overall, this film is near flawless in what it set out to be: a dialogue driven, talky, drama with undertones of an intelligent comedy. This is without question the most underrated film of 2009. This film should be viewed with the focus on what it is rather than what it isn't. Rent this movie before you rent anything else. A-
Do you have a spare dollar? Good. Now go directly to your nearest Redbox location and waste it on the film Brothers. They should call this film, "Brothers: A Tobey Maguire Film." Actually, there should be a federal law passed that requires all film studios to include this advisory after the title of any movie featuring Tobey Maguire. He is one of the best anchors in the business; and not in a good way. He is the one friend you had in high school that could single handedly buzz kill the life of the best party. He dumps buckets of ice water down the front of the pants of any movie he is in.
Even knowing Cider House Maguire was in this film, I was still optimistic that Brothers could be a great drama for a few reasons. It stars top-notch Oscar nominated actors, Natalie Portman and Jake Gyllenhaal. Also, it is directed by Jim Sheridan, the same guy that directed the heart warming movie, In America. Even routinely accurate film critic Richard Roeper deemed this, "The best movie of the year". I made the mistake of thinking that all these factors could some how off set the Tobey Maguire factor. I was wrong. The dead weight of the movie industry has struck again.
To be completley fair, the movie is still watchable even despite Seabiscuit Maguire. It is centered around the all-too-common problem of individuals in the military having to leave their families to serve overseas. Apparently, some film exec thought it would be a good idea to cast the very nonathletic and baby faced Maguire as a former star high school quarterback turned Marine Captain. They also thought it would make sense to have said Captain the father of two preteen children. During a tour in Afghanistan he goes missing in action and is presumed dead.
His prickly dead beat brother, (Jake Gyllenhaal), steps in to help take care of his deceased brother's grieving wife, (Natalie Portman), and daughters. This portion of the film is worth your $1. Both actors are excellent and very believable. They manage to keep the serious tone soft yet enjoyably unsettling in a film that could have easily turned dark and depressing. Gyllenhaal is always impressive whether it be as a gay mustached ranch hand or as a troubled teen named Donnie. He is no exception here playing the prodigal son/ brother struggling to find his way in a delicate new role as a fill-in-father.
All the components of a good drama start to fall into place, there is only one problem. You guessed it. Spiderman Maguire doesn't stay dead. Not only is he alive, but he manages to hijack the rest of the movie ironically ending any chance of the film living up to its potential by putting a bullet right in the back of its head with a few scenes of stiff overacting. I would say more but I've given away too much already. C+
What to watch instead: Step Brothers (2008) A