Bret Easton Ellis adapts his own novel for the screen, returning to the Los Angeles of the early 1980’s with a multi-strand narrative that deftly balances a vast array of characters who represent both the top of the heap (a Hollywood dream merchant, a dissolute rock star, an aging newscaster) and the bottom (a voyeuristic doorman, an amoral ex-con). Connecting all his intertwining strands are the quintessential Ellis protagonists—a group of beautiful, blonde young men and women who sleep all day and party all night, doing drugs—and one another—with abandon, never realising that they are dancing on the edge of a volcano.
Author Bret Easton Ellis has taken as his subject the jaded, moneyed and sexed-up twenty-somethings of LA. His characters tend to be pretty and pretty vacant. All seem to be living a self-induced nocturnal existence of partygoing, squeezed between bed-ridden days where hangovers are slept off and emotional casualties are blearily assessed. Critics tend to focus on the brand-name precision of Ellis’ satire, but what really interests him is the sadness and longing of his characters, like the ones in this adaptation of his book of short stories The Informers. Here, everyone may be a Hollywood arsehole – but they’re lonely arseholes.
Directed by Gregor Jordan, from a screenplay by Ellis and Nicholas Jarecki, it’s a sickly and strange movie experience. Watching it is a bit like being cornered at a party by a distant acquaintance determined to impress with their tales of a debauched big night out – there’s an awful fascination, but you’re glad you missed it. It isn’t so much the sordid material that’s depressing, it’s the air of self-importance; early on there’s a fly-over shot of an aged, rusted and worn out Hollywood sign. The structure labours the film's mood of moral and ethical stocktaking.
The Informers begins with a cruel death, a stupid accident and it’s followed by a wake held at the Hilton.
Set in the 80s, the period detail is precise and telling; the women have big hair and the men have dye-jobs and flop cuts made popular by Flock of Seagulls (who can be heard on the movie's soundtrack along with Devo, Simple Minds and Men Without Hats).
In a series of short, savage vignettes (some unintentionally funny) the action of the film tracks an ensemble of Hollywood 'types'; producer Billy Bob Thornton attempts to get back with wife Kim Basinger after his affair with newscaster Winona Ryder; Graham (Jon Foster), son of Basinger and Thornton, and his growing impatience with a promiscuous girlfriend (Amber Heard) who, as the movie progresses becomes subject to a mysterious illness (an intimation of AIDS). Then there’s Basinger’s affair with Graham’s bi-sexual video-maker best friend Martin (Austin Nichols)"¦ Jordan, whose humour tends to be acerbic and cruel, doesn’t find too many laughs in any of this. One of the only bright moments is a subplot about an atrocious rock star, Bryan Metro (Mel Raido), who returns to LA for a series of concerts. He wanders about not knowing whether it's day or night, not knowing where he is. Its casual, cruel farce and they’re the only scenes in the film which don’t beg for audience sympathy.