Is The Informers the new Satyricon?

informersCertainly one of the darkest visions of Los Angeles to ever appear on the big screen, The Informers, adapted from a series of short stories by Bret Easton Ellis first published in 1994, is a brutal look at a group of mostly rich, spoiled twenty-somethings and their families in 1983 as they party, snort a lot of cocaine, have group sex in all variations, contract a mysterious disease and betray their friends, their parents, their friends’ parents and each other.

If you’re the type of person who needs to see fluffy images of sweetness and sensitivity projected in large rooms in 90-minute chunks for entertainment, then this movie of entwined, slimy and squirming characters will probably make your brain swell and explode. Not a single scene relents from the anguish of its characters. It kicks off with a senseless death at a swank party peopled by blonde beauties and descends from there. A pounding ’80s soundtrack, full-frontal nudity and pumping sex scenes make it seem like the new Satyricon, but it isn’t Rome that’s burning– this time, it’s Los Angeles. (R-rated trailer after click.)

Kim Basinger gives a heartbreaking, wounded performance as a woman caught between past failures and current disappointments– or in this case, Winona Ryder and Billy Bob Thornton. The late Brad Renfro delivers a gut-wrenching portrayal of a young man being swallowed by contemporary nihilism as embodied by a horrific Mickey Rourke. Jon Foster is swept up in the madness of choosing between his lovers, male and female, as they abandon him for their own trysts. A softly stunned expression settles on his handsome face and stays there as the harshness marches past.

Unfortunately, The Informers, directed by Gregor Jordan, is getting mostly negative reviews and, according to a review in Film Journal, had scorn heaped on it at this year’s Sundance Festival. It is deserving of neither.

And if you want to catch it on the big screen, which I recommend because a tableaux this unsettling is best seen large and with a group, then you better hurry. Still, although there were only about a dozen people at the 8 PM screening on Saturday in Glendale (and four of them walked out about a third of the way through), the same screening at Arclight Hollywood was sold out by 4 PM, but I assume kindred spirits of the subjects were to credit for that.


5 thoughts on “Is The Informers the new Satyricon?”

  1. Wow. I totally must have seen a different Informers. It left me cold. I’d go so far as to say I thought it was teh suck.

    I couldn’t locate the anguish in anyone except the Kim Bassinger character. Take the death that kicks off the opening, for instance, the comment on the part of the characters is “It’s been a week already.” Honestly, Chal, had they all died in a fire half way through the film I would have been like “oh well.” The problem with making a movie that critiques/celebrates it’s characters lack of interiority is that there’s little reason to care about their fates. So there’s my Siskel to your Ebert or something like that.

    The Wikipedia article on the film actually explained to me why I disliked it so: Apparently it was supposed to be a light-hearted satire originally (complete with Vampires and zombies) and then they changed directors.

  2. @Travis: It all worked for dark, li’l ol’ me. I read the book ages ago and was happy with the decision to remove the vampire story, such a tiresome genre for me. Also, it amazes me that people are still gunning for Ellis. American Psycho was dredged up in an unfavorable light for some of the reviews, but I enjoyed (probably the wrong word) the book and the movie.

    Oddly, in a related note, the new McInerney book is meeting with critical praise, so go figure. I think that books by both authors resonated with me due to my life circumstances at the time of their bursting onto the scene. Please note, I do not include Tama Janowitz in that group.

    Also, I often like movies that are not well received. For instance, the last one I liked that just about everyone hated was “Perfume.” I’ve been a long-time Tykwer fan, but I still haven’t made it to “The International.”

  3. Well, I often hate movies that everyone else likes (witness The Dark Knight), so we’re well matched. I don’t really care much one way or another about Ellis, though the lifestyles of the bored and rich annoy me, I confess. I grew up in Potomac, MD and got my fill of angsty trust funders. That said, I’m going to see Less Than Zero in two weeks at the Silent Movie Theater.

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