24 September 2009

Liar, Liar Pants on Fire - My Open Letter to "The Informant!" Star, Matt Damon

(The latest film from director Steven Soderbergh, The Informant! opened in theaters nationwide last week. It stars Matt Damon as Mark Whitacre, a vice president in an international agri-business company who informs on illegal price fixing activities. Based on actual events, The Informant! is the story of a man who weaves a very tangled web through lie after lie. Below is my letter to the film's star.)

Matt, Just caught your latest movie, The Informant! First of all it's always a pleasure to see you in something other than one of those Bourne films. The first one was fine, but see what happens when you make action sequels? The plots get more contrived as the action sequences get more elaborate. Character gets lost and the editing is too quick and choppy...But I digress.

The Informant! demonstrates the kind of range you have as an actor. You should continue to look for roles, like that of Mark Whitacre that will challenge you. I'm not just talking about the weight gain or even the intentional flatness of your voice (impressive as they are) you played a character who was a serial liar. He lied to his co-workers, his business associates, the FBI, his lawyers, his family and to himself.

That in itself is not a lot to go on in creating an interesting screen presence, especially when your character -- based on a real person, mind you -- is so emotionally and physically contained. And despite the grandiosity of his lies, the very scope of them, he's kind of uninteresting. But you took what was so ordinary about him and made it shine like a beacon. I was drawn to Mark Whitacre. There was sociopathic quality to him that you brought out just by playing him so earnest. So right down the middle of a long and flat Illinois road.

Please let Soderbergh now that I think he did excellent work here too. I loved the quirky musical score and the casting was dead on. Especially important was the pacing which is critical in a movie so heavy in dialogue and bereft of action or scenery. I don't recall emitting a yawn during the entire film. This was an anti-Bourne film. No fight scenes, no romance but a true story thoroughly entertaining with a lot to say.

Yeah Soderbergh gets major props but really you had to carry the movie, you were in darn near every frame of it. Matt, you have a natural and interesting screen presence, a real really high likability rating. You're right up there with that Hanks fella. That allows you to tackle a variety of roles. Take advantage of that my man.

The Informant! succeeded because you didn't just show up. Whitacre is a character you really have to get inside, embody, to convey a lot about and you did. Because, like I said, he's so self contained and he's a big fat liar. Here's a guy with a self delusional pathology who performs at a very high level within society. To play that successfully requires an actor with a lot of self confidence, especially when he's willing to let the story unfold and he remains true to the character throughout. Maybe take it easier on yourself next time and play a drunk or a raving lunatic. This one had to be hard.

So you can see I'm enthusiastic about the film and your performance in particular. Taking a guy like that, a pathetic mess, really, and make him someone we care about and are intrigued by is an acting coup.

Films can offer insight into the human condition. Someone like Mark Whitacre is hard to know or understand and is certainly subject to interpretation. People will for sure have various takes on a guy like that. Through your performance we at least got a good look at him and are thus in a position to draw some conclusions. That's all we can ask. Give us a real good look at the character and what he did. The rest is up to us.

As someone who is 100% Finnish I can't help but flatter our people that your Finnish ancestry is central to your talent. Which reminds me: ever consider playing a Finn? Maybe a Finnish American character is a more reasonable idea. By God that's it! You could play me! There is a film version of my life somewhere in development, right?
Let's talk.
Best to the family.
Your Pal,


Millie said...

I'm half Finnish! And, it's quite obvious that Finnish people are just cooler...;-D

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