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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Informant!

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Matt Damon stars in a scene from the movie "The Informant."
The late radio broadcaster Paul Harvey might have particularly appreciated director Steven Soderbergh's diverting comedy "The Informant!" (Warner Bros.) because—to echo Harvey's famous tagline—this fact-based tale is all about "the rest of the story."

As adapted from journalist Kurt Eichenwald's 2000 book, "The Informant (A True Story)," Scott Z. Burns' script recounts the unlikely adventures of up-and-coming agribusiness executive Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon).

A veteran researcher for conglomerate Archer Daniels Midland, as the film opens in the early 1990s, Whitaker is in charge of developing a new food additive called lysine. With the project stalled, Whitacre informs his colleagues that an insider at one of ADM's Japanese competitors has contacted him, offering, for the right payoff, to reveal the identity of the corporate spy who has been sabotaging the program.

To Whitacre's surprise -- his subsequent behavior raises the possibility that he has concocted the entire incident -- ADM's top brass invites the FBI to investigate, and Special Agent Brian Shepard (Scott Bakula) is assigned to place a bug on Whitacre's home phone.

Cajoled by his wife Ginger (Melanie Lynskey), Whitacre takes advantage of Shepard's presence to turn whistleblower, revealing that ADM has been involved in an international scheme to fix the price of lysine.

Supervised by Shepard and fellow agent Bob Herndon (Joel McHale), Whitacre goes undercover. But his eccentric delusions -- he dubs himself Agent 0014 on the grounds that he is "twice as smart as 007" -- continually complicate the investigation, while his reluctance to tell the whole truth leads to a series of jaw-dropping revelations.

Large-scale, real-life fraud may seem an incongruous subject for humor, and the film's treatment of both corporate and individual misdeeds may strike some as frivolous. Others may be put off by the fact that Whitacre's exaggerated self-image is at least in part attributable to bipolar disease. Yet the tone is never mean-spirited or condescending.

In fact, by his intense performance, both onscreen and via well-written stream-of-consciousness voiceovers that detail Whitacre's off-kilter outlook on life, Damon creates a curiously sympathetic egomaniac. And Lynskey shows equal dedication as longsuffering Ginger, who stands by her man but also applies moral pressure when it's most needed, making for a marriage that succeeds against the odds.

The film contains a few uses of profanity and some rough and crude language. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted; under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.


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Alphonsus Rodriguez: Tragedy and challenge beset today’s saint early in life, but Alphonsus Rodriguez found happiness and contentment through simple service and prayer. 
<p>Born in Spain in 1533, Alphonsus inherited the family textile business at 23. Within the space of three years, his wife, daughter and mother died; meanwhile, business was poor. Alphonsus stepped back and reassessed his life. He sold the business and, with his young son, moved into his sisters’ home. There he learned the discipline of prayer and meditation. </p><p>Years later, at the death of his son, Alphonsus, almost 40 by then, sought to join the Jesuits. He was not helped by his poor education. He applied twice before being admitted. For 45 years he served as doorkeeper at the Jesuits’ college in Majorca. When not at his post, he was almost always at prayer, though he often encountered difficulties and temptations. </p><p>His holiness and prayerfulness attracted many to him, including St. Peter Claver, then a Jesuit seminarian. Alphonsus’s life as doorkeeper may have been humdrum, but he caught the attention of poet and fellow-Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins, who made him the subject of one of his poems. </p><p>Alphonsus died in 1617. He is the patron saint of Majorca.</p> American Catholic Blog People mess up, and it’s especially hard to watch as our children and other young people go down paths we know are likely to lead to heartbreak. Providing gentle guidance when it’s needed, and love even when that guidance isn’t followed, helps them to start fresh.

 
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