Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Informers: Grade C

The Informers (2009)
Billy Bob Thornton, Kim Basinger, Wynona Ryder, Mickey Rourke, Rhys Ifans; Director Gregor Jordan.

Four stories are about life in LA during the early ‘80s, that is, life of the rich and irresponsible, or criminal and irresponsible. The stories are intercut so we follow all four at once, but they are only tangentially related. In all of them, uneducated, undeveloped, egocentric characters drift along without self-awareness -- not very interesting.

Ifans leads a punk/rock band. Band members are enormously wealthy, stay only in luxurious hotels, smoke weed, snort coke, and engage in continuous orgiastic sex with all manner of youth, both male and female. What a life. But they are mean-spirited, cynical, bored, and clueless.

Thornton is a wealthy music producer, separated from his wife (Basinger), who is some kind of neurotic recluse who occasionally sleeps with one of the band members. BBT is having an affair with a news announcer (Ryder), who remains in mannequin mode even when not on TV. The producer is a generic self-centered bastard/asshole but we find out late in the movie that he also shoots up drugs when Basinger loans him her syringe after they attempt a reconciliation.

Rourke (pre-Wrestler) is a criminal lowlife who kidnaps a boy to make some quick cash for his heroin habit. He and his drifter girlfriend share needles too. The kidnap payoff does not go well and he has to skip town in a hurry.

The briefest story is of a young man who might have been part of the Informers or just a groupie, who inexplicably accepts an invitation to go to Hawaii with his estranged father, a conventional dimwit square. Between them is icewater that remains even in Hawaii.

The “ending,” if it can be called that, is that one of the band’s promiscuous groupies develops Kaposi’s sarcoma, a pre-AIDS condition and lays dying on a California beach in her bikini. The message seems to be wistful: ah, for the good old days, when there was unlimited sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, and nothing to worry about! AIDS was identified about 1980 and is not known to these characters. Therefore what? If only they had known about AIDS, they would have had a strong moral sense and been upright citizens? AIDS is their punishment for debauched lives? This movie doesn’t know what it is trying to say.

On the plus side I could watch Thornton, Basinger and Rourke all day. They’re great. Hard punk/rock music was beyond my taste. Otherwise, the scenes, the script, the directing, the cinematography are mechanical and cliché. Despite these serious shortcomings, the movie does give the sense of a rich, ignorant and aimless lifestyle that is interesting, and it does make you wonder how social life would have evolved without the AIDS epidemic.

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