Reliving The '80s, The Era Of Self-absorption

Nothing Underscores How Vapid The 'Me Generation' Was More Than 'the Informers' * (1 Star)

April 24, 2009|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,chris.kaltenbach@baltsun.com

An awful film about an awful time. Maybe The Informers is on to something.

Shallow and pretentious, filled with characters who wear their vapidness like some bizarre badge of honor, The Informers thinks it has something important (or at least valid) to say about the 1980s, that decade of great self-absorption that was done in by a combination of despair, disease and plain old despicable behavior. But rather than being perceptive or even informed, it's alternately dull and disingenuous, coming across more as a smug "I told you so" than anything else.

At the core of the film is a group of rich, interchangeable 20-something bores who feel the world owes them not only a living, but a gold-plated one at that. Some are children of Hollywood types, others are just handsome hangers-on. None has anything in the way of redeeming qualities.

Based on a novel by that master of late-20th-century feckless self-absorption, Bret Easton Ellis (American Psycho, The Rules of Attraction), The Informers follows a dozen-or-so Los Angelenos, all connected in some way to the movie biz, as they navigate the early '80s.

There's a studio bigwig (Billy Bob Thornton), who's cheating on his wife (Kim Basinger, wasted in one of her better performances) by having an affair with a TV anchorwoman (Winona Ryder), but who seems shocked that either woman would have a problem with that.

There's a lollipop-sucking kidnapper (Mickey Rourke) and his hapless brother (the late Brad Renfro, to whom the movie is dedicated), a hotel doorman and would-be screenwriter. There's a drug-addled British rock star (Mel Raido) whose only concern is which willing bimbo he'll wake up alongside tomorrow.

Somehow, The Informers is supposed to be reminiscent of Robert Altman's 1993 Short Cuts, but the only things these two films share are a large ensemble cast and words spoken mostly in English.

Whereas Altman's film offered genuine insight to L.A. life (the movie had a marvelous sense of place), the best director Gregor Jordan can offer here is the trenchant observation that determinedly shallow people are worthy of scorn. And what are we to make when the specter of AIDS starts appearing? Retribution? Just desserts? Bad karma? The movie suggests all of the above, which only belittles the coming tragedy.

As for invoking L.A., Jordan settles on having everyone sport a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses and drive expensive cars.

Too much money, too much sex, too many drugs, too little sense of responsibility. Yes, these are all bad things. Let's hope that none of us needs to see The Informers to understand that.

The Informers

(Senator Entertainment) Starring Kim Basinger, Billy Bob Thornton, Mickey Rourke. Directed by Gregor Jordan. Rated R for language, drug use and nudity. Time 98 minutes.

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