Adapting Easton-Ellis’ bisexy druggy ’80s yeilds a long, boring story
Director: Gregor Jordan
Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Kim Basinger, Winona Ryder, Mickey Rourke and Brad Renfro
Opens April 24 at Angelikas Dallas and Plano. • 1 hr. 38 min. • R
Self-indulgentry — is that a word? It should be. It fits the characters in "The Informers" and the movie itself.
It’s 1983 in Los Angeles. AIDS is ushering in the end of the era of consequence-free sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. But some people have yet to notice, let alone heed the warning signs.
This is especially true among the wealthy set portrayed in the latest adaptation of a Bret Easton Ellis ("American Psycho," "Less than Zero") novel. The older generation is trying (not too successfully) to make amends while the younger generation is making mistakes.
Connecting several plots is studio head William Sloan (Billy Bob Thornton), who’s in the process of reconciling and moving back in with his wife Laura (Kim Basinger) to avoid an expensive divorce. But he doesn’t want to give up his mistress, newscaster Cheryl Moore (Winona Ryder).
Laura has expensive tastes, including half-her-age hustler Martin (Austin Nichols), who’s the best friend of her drug-dealing son Graham (Jon Foster). Martin is also sleeping with Graham and Graham’s girlfriend Christie (Amber Heard) — all together, separately, with other people too. Hey, it’s 1983.
An almost completely separate storyline involves Peter (Mickey Rourke), a total waste of a human body, who used to work for William’s studio. He comes to "hang out for a couple of days" with Jack (the late Brad Renfro in his final role), the nephew he raised. Peter brings along the teenage girl he’s shacking up with in his van and a young kidnap victim he’s planning to sell.
(Forget your dreams of a "9 Â½ Weeks" reunion. Rourke and Basinger have no scenes together.)
Bryan Metro (Mel Raido) is a dissolute rockstar everyone’s a fan of. It sounds like the movie may be building to something when his band, the Informers, plays the Greek. But we never see the other characters at the concert. With subtlety typical of this movie, Bryan is shown waking up with two teenagers — a boy and a girl — in his bed.
The final storyline involves Les Price (Chris Isaak) trying to bond with his estranged son Tim (Lou Taylor Pucci) by taking him to Hawaii. A pathetic self-styled stud, Les worries that Tim might be gay — especially after he spies a macho TV star with three male companions at their hotel.
"The Informers" is like "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" without the camp value but with so much blond hair, you’ll think it rains bleach in L.A. A few serious dramatic scenes are played like bad soap opera, but most of the time the characters are too wasted or blasÃ© to show any emotion.
Bryan is probably the most interesting character and Graham the most sympathetic. They represent the extremes of not caring at all and caring too much.
Jack cares too, but he’s working-class so nobody cares about him. A wannabe actor, he whines, "You can’t really make it in this town unless you’re willing to do some awful things." Like this movie?
Director Gregor Jordan does what he can to suggest great wealth on a limited budget, including doing some filming in Argentina and Uruguay. That might account more for the actors’ apparent disorientation than the drugs their characters are supposed to have ingested.
Ellis, who adapted his novel with Nicholas Jarecki, was reportedly upset that their screenplay was cut by 40 percent, including an entire subplot featuring Brandon Routh. A little more development might have helped but another storyline was definitely not needed. It’s hard to imagine anyone sitting through "The Informers" as it is and wishing it would go on longer.
AT THE USA FEST
Wednesday with Paul Williams
Paul Williams, above left, is a versatile talent. The mega composer is responsible for writing the world’s gayest children’s song, "The Rainbow Connection," from "The Muppet Movie." And on the Scissor Sisters’ last album, "Ta-Dah," Williams teamed up with queer singer Jake Shears to write "Almost Sorry," a song about a playground bully.
This week, Williams visits Dallas for a screening of Brian De Palma’s 1974 cult classic "Phantom of the Paradise."
Williams stars as the villainous Swan, a music impresario looking for the perfect song to open his nightclub. He steals a Faust cantata from hapless songwriter Winslow (William Finley) and gives it to awful hit-makers The Juicy Fruits.
A one-of-a-kind mix of comedy, horror, satire and catchy pop, "Phantom of the Paradise" remains one of the most outrageous musicals ever made. "Phantom of the Paradise" was partly filmed in Dallas — featuring the Majestic Theatre (the Paradise club) and the Old Red Courthouse (Swan’s mansion).
April 29 at 7 p.m. at the Angelika Film Center at Mockingbird Station. 1 hour 32 min. Tickets $10. Call 214-631-2787. Paul Williams in attendance. Screening will be preceded by a compilation tribute and a work-in-progress portrait of Paul Williams by filmmaker Stephen Kessler.
BROKEN-DOWN WILDCATTERS AND GUSHER GLORY
Sue Ellen takes a business trip with hunky Nicholas Pearce. At the Longhorn tavern, Bobby brawls with a barroom full of beered-up cowboys. "And howdee, honey!" J.R. knows how to succeed in the oil biz — by sleeping with his rival’s wife.
Hold onto your Stetsons, and time travel to Big D, circa 1988.
Featuring 30-episodes of "Dallas: Season 11" ($39.98), the DVD collection dropped on Tuesday. With locations like Fair Park’s Hall of State building, The Galleria ice rink and, of course, South Fork Ranch, "Dallas" highlights our city’s glitzy side. Plus there’s tons of bed hopping, campy scoundrelism and outrÃ© fashion choices — bathing suits with matching earrings and men with moussed-up mullets.
— Daniel A. Kusner
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 24, 2009.