In a time when business corruption has trashed our economy and polluted our government, who doesn't want to see a movie that sends up the businessmen responsible? The Informant! (based on Kurt Eichenwald's non-fiction book of the same name) tells the story of Decatur-based agro-conglomerate Archer Daniels Midland. In particular, it tells of Mark Whitacre, their unassuming President of BioProducts, and his seemingly noble attempt to out the agribusiness practice of illegal price fixing.
Matt Damon's physical transformation (he gained 30 lbs. to play the role of Whitacre), combined with an outstanding performance, is reminiscent of DeNiro's for Raging Bull. The rest of the cast is also spot on, led by Scott Bakula (one of my favorites) and about a million comics – Joel McHale, Tom Papa, Paul F. Tompkins, Patton Oswalt, and others were cast in roles both large and small for the film.
For all the comedians taking part, is the final product funny? Yes. It's actually very funny, though most laughable (in every sense) is Damon's Whitacre, especially during his scores of non-sequitur voiceovers, which illlustrate that this man is rarely concentrating on even the most important things that occur aroung him. The movie excels at making this story more amusing that sad, though it is most certainly both. By highlighting the assinine and confusing details of this true story, the film creates the same sense of confusion in the viewer that everyone around Whitacre felt all the time.
Still, purposefully confusing is still confusing. It's hard to feel totally satisfied by a production that leaves key questions unanswered, and leaves everyone (except maybe Whitacre) guessing not until the last moment, but beyond the last moment, into the credits, and on the drive home. And these aren't questions that can be answered by a few hours of puzzling. It is doubtful that anyone knows exactly how the true story of the Informant goes.
The real Mark Whitacre is still alive. Perhaps, on his deathbed, he'll reveal a tell-all memoir that tells the tale of the real man and of the real corn industry. But at this point, I seriously doubt anyone will believe any of it.