Knight at the Movies Archives
Yet another adaptation of a Bret Easton Ellis vacuous character study is a guilty pleasure, a head banging good time
The Beautiful People that populate Bret Easton Ellis’ novels and the movies made from them – Less Than Zero, American Psycho, The
Rules of Attraction, and now The Informers – are some of the most vapid, immoral, hedonistic, narcissistic, and sick at the soul folks
one would ever hope to encounter. Bored, icy, sexually ambiguous, physically gorgeous yet emotionally detached, Ellis’ people often
seem nothing more than exquisite, empty facades as they tool around Los Angeles in their fancy sports cars dressed to the nines,
lounge endlessly poolside or visit the latest nightspot during the Me Decade (Ellis’ urban landscape and time period of choice). Few
of his characters have any redeeming qualities, some are outright psychopaths and it’s no surprise that they’re an acquired taste but
I love ‘em. More than that – the somnambulant bunch that populate The Informers, the latest Ellis novel to hit the screen – his
most venal yet – are just about my favorites (Christian Bale as the serial killer in American Psycho is still unbeatable).
The movie is set in Ellisland aka Los Angeles 1983 (the soundtrack, costumes, and hair alone are worth the price of admission). It
follows a group of disparate characters – those on the highest rungs of the ladder (Billy Bob Thornton, Kim Basinger, Winona Ryder,
Chris Isaak, and a rat pack’s worth of new Hollywood trash) to those scrambling down below (Brad Renfro in his last role and Mickey
Rourke) – in a revolving series of stories ala Short Cuts. “You can’t make it in this town unless you’re willing to do some awful
things. And I’m willing,” Renfro as an anxiety stricken doorman tells one of his impossibly gorgeous tenants Graham (Jon Foster),
son of a studio executive (Thornton). That’s more or less the message and the plot of this stylish, glacial film and it helps explain
why these rotten folks who can’t enjoy all that they’ve been given are such fun to watch. They’re so awful that their audacious
selfishness becomes funny, so screwed up in spite of all their wealth the audience gets to feel superior. And let’s not forget the
voyeuristic pleasures to be had in gazing upon such a spectacular group of beauties from afar.
The story is narrated by Graham whose mother (Basinger) is sleeping with the same hustler/drug dealer/music video director that he
is. But then, so is his blonde bombshell girlfriend Christie (Amber Heard) who assures him after they can’t even be bothered to
finish a lovemaking session (scored to Wang Chung’s “Dance Hall Days”) that the fact they’re both sleeping with Martin (Austin
Nichols) is no big deal. The film alternates between Graham and his pleasure seeking friends, an attempted marital reconciliation
between Thornton and Basinger (though Thornton still has a thing for Winona Ryder as a newscaster), a trip to Hawaii by one of the
golden lads with his wealthy horndog of a father (Isaak), the anxious doorman (Renfro) and his low life father (Rourke) who kidnaps
a child off the street, parking him at Renfro’s apartment.
There’s also a British rock star, Bryan Metro (Mel Radio), lead singer of The Informers, a goth rock new wave band (think Bauhaus
and The Cult) that’s all the rage whose concert is one of the few things to momentarily excite the other characters. Bryan, who can’t
keep away from drugs, vodka and underage girls and boys is such a mess that he can’t even be bothered to stay onstage through
the opening number of his concert.
Though the characters tryst in many different sexual variations and with multiple partners, pleasure proves to be elusive. Christie
complains to Graham about a bruise on her arm and her foot and AIDS, the silent spectator standing in the background, waiting to
emerge from the shadows, suddenly comes front and center. The movie turns into a daisy chain of death which the film’s ending
emphasizes. Alone on the beach under a suddenly mottled gray sky, Christie, now dying, her once beautiful body riddled with
Kaposi Sarcoma lesions, lies on a beach towel in her bikini refusing to see a doctor, insisting that all she needs is a little sun to get
well. “There’s no more sun” Graham tells the dying girl as the cold sets in and the camera pulls back revealing the bleak expanse
as far as the eye can see. A crack has formed in the ceiling of the Pleasuredome and in its conclusion The Informers takes on the air
of ancient, decadent Rome just before the fall. It’s a chilling end to a chilling, brutal film that is a lot more than the sum of its one
dimensional parts would suggest.
Anvil! The Story of Anvil, opening Friday, April 24 at the Music Box Theatre, is Sacha Gervasi’s delightful documentary look at a
little known Canadian metal band who briefly tasted glory in the early 80s and have since tenaciously tried to recapture it. Fronted
by best friends Robb Reiner and Steve “Lips” Kudlow, their story is an inspiration to any struggling musician who refuses to let age or
economic circumstances subvert their dreams of musical glory. The friendship of the two men, the disappointments and tantalizing
moments they share and the promise of finally achieving glory is extraordinarily entertaining to witness. The movie’s a real life
Spinal Tap – with talent and heart. Anvil the band plays at Cabaret Metro April 22 and will appear at the Music Box opening weekend.
Chills and Thrills:
4-22-09 Windy City Times KATM Column
By Richard Knight, Jr.