There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
The Informers isn’t a terribly film-friendly book, so its floppy run says less about the pulp’s author, Bret Easton Ellis, than it does about the movie’s director, Gregor Jordan. The book, based on the author’s pet premise that everyone suffers from the same blasé psychosis, is a collection of interlaced short stories, and the film actually does decent work integrating Ellis’ insular panoply of jaded ’80s types: Laura (Kim Basinger) is an overmedicated housewife married to William (Billy Bob Thornton); Graham (Jon Foster), their son, sells coke and spends most of his time in an uneasy ménage à trois with Christie (Amber Heard) and Martin (Austin Nichols), who directs music videos for a band that opens for Bryan Metro (Mel Raido), a rock-star burnout who likes to beat groupies and call his ex-wife, who is also sleeping with Martin. Graham emerges as the de facto lead, just disgusted enough by the proceedings—mainly his girlfriend’s proclivity for sleeping with his best friend—to serve as the audience’s stand-in. At the same time, the guy’s not exactly a seeker: During one coke-fueled confession in his Porsche overlooking Los Angeles, he tells Martin: “I need someone to tell me what’s good; I need someone to tell me what’s bad.” The film wears this predictable moral vacancy on its sleeve, and while there’s nothing to fill it, a New Wave soundtrack spliced under grainy, airborne pans of Los Angeles doesn’t evoke fear and trembling so much as early episodes of L.A. Law. Jordan has shuffled some of the characters around and excised a vampire subplot, but the story, such as it is, emerges pretty much intact—which is to say, it’s Less than Zero with multiple protagonists. Mickey Rourke is wasted as a hustler with a 15-year-old girlfriend who lives in the back of his van and helps him abduct little children, whom he sells to a syndicate that doesn’t get much screen time. (It actually has to do with the vampires, but why split hairs?) The film is neither as focused nor as funny as American Psycho, not only because the book isn’t but also because (Ellis and his surrogates claim) of Jordan, who snatched the directorial reins from Nicholas Jarecki (co-screenwriter, with Ellis), who’d originally envisioned a lighter, more satirical piece. Under Jordan’s oversight, the film unfolds along the same organizing principle as Ellis’ written work. But the dense, choppy passages that make the book so, well, cinematic do just the opposite for the film, rendering it abrupt without being vertiginous, static without being stark, off-putting without being alienating. “We’re still in the desert,” Rourke says of Los Angeles, an idea familiar to Ellis cultists that doesn’t get much fleshing-out over the course of the film. Except in the unerring grace of the final shot, that is, in which an AIDS-stricken girl lies on a beach, the camera slowly receding and then coming to rest just far enough out that the beach looks like a desert. It’s everything the preceding 98 minutes aren’t: worth a shudder and hard to shrug off.