Monday, September 21, 2009

Movie Notes: The Informant and Jennifer's Body

The Informant
God, when Steven Soderbergh just doesn't try so hard, he really makes some phenomenal movies. It's interesting to put this movie side-by-side with his other whistleblower movie, Erin Brockovich, a movie that I very much liked but which draped itself in the earnest strivings of its main character. Here, Matt Damon's Mark Whitacre drapes himself in self-serving lies and a seemingly unending labyrinth of deceit, and the film does a great job of bopping along without ever truly taking the audience into its confidence. Smart stuff. (A big assist in that regard has to go to Marvin Hamlisch's dextrous score.) Damon's performance is full of humor and indignation -- it's not a generous take on this guy, but it's a committed one.

Jennifer's Body
Okay, to get the Diablo Cody stuff out of the way: I hated the first half-hour of Juno, but I didn't hate Juno. I'm annoyed by Kate and T on United States of Tara, but I LOVE United States of Tara. That cutesy, overly verbal, try-hard dialogue is certainly present in Jennifer's Body, though like in Juno and Tara, it's relegated to one character, really. Would I like to take a comb through the script and remove about 50% of the quippiness? Sure. But the difference between Cody-speak and Joss Whedon-speak is slimmer than you might think. Anyway, if you hate all that, there's going to be no convincing you anyway. Me? I grit my teeth through the "move on dot org" cringers and as my reward got a smart and seriously funny horror comedy. The ads are misleading in that they promise a high-school allegory, where the Mean Girl is literally evil; and she IS, but Jennifer doesn't get bogged down in metaphors. In their place, we get great interplay between an always-excellent Amanda Seyfried and a shockingly effective Megan Fox. I'm not ready to tag her as a great actress or anything, but the girl knows exactly the attitude this movie requires of her, and she's pretty magnetic. It's not a flawless movie -- there are pacing issues that I can't entirely nail down, Amy Sedaris is wasted -- but I enjoyed the shit out of myself watching it.

Also, I need to shout out the pitch-perfect casting in this thing. So many excellent actors in tiny parts. Sedaris is wasted, yes, but Cynthia Stevenson and Chris Pratt and JK Simmons seem like they're just there to deliver one impeccable line and then be on their way. And can we talk about Adam Brody for several minutes? I liked him on The O.C., of course, and he's been delightful in tiny roles in The Ten and Smiley Face. But he is utterly perfect here, from the very first second. He's both an embodiment of every fake-soulful, guylinered emo rock band you've ever hated AND actively sending up that very over-the-top hatred you have for them. He hits every single line just right and was my favorite thing on the screen.

Bottom line, this feels like a success to me (even if it royally tanked at the box-office). And super-duper bonus points to whoever decided to throw on Hole's "Violet" right before the end credit sequence. Absolutely divine, and it kind of makes up for what I found to be the irritatingly self-conscious presence of "Doll Parts" in Juno. Kudos!


JA said...

I put Live Through This back onto my iPod after a long absence as soon as I got home from JB and have been listening to it all weekend since.

Joe Reid said...

Me too!

momo said...

Can't wait to see The Informant. While I like Diablo Cody's quipiness more than you (I AM the mother of a 14-yr old girl and THIS IS THE WAY THEY TALK), I have never been able to watch slasher/horror movies, so I'll probably give this one a miss, not because of how good or bad it is, but because... No, yuck.

miyaz said...

the informant movie is a combination of terrifying, curious and the comedy. hope it will be more nicer than it is. unfortunately the director of this movie has give funny face for this historical movie

Danny said...

I don't like when you and Rich disagree! You two are my favorites.

JA said...

I'm a little dumbfounded by Rich's review, honestly, but then he mentioned he was a Juno hater and it made more sense.

Joe Reid said...

Yeah, my feeling is, if you hate the way she writes, you hate the way she writes. Not much that can be done about it, and clearly you're gonna hate Jennifer's Body if you hate the way she writes. I appear to have more of a resistance to her excesses than most.

But yes, I hate when Rich and I disagree too, mostly because he makes his case far stronger than I do.