Put Your Fibs Together and Blow!
People are usually very straightforward. While talking with someone, you have a good idea of what they’re thinking. And yes, it is very boring. That is why the title character Mark Whitacre as depicted in Steven Soderbergh’s The Informant! is cause for relief. The man has a two-track mind. His habitual expression is pleasant but blank. Just listening to his outrageous thoughts makes me wonder how exhausting it must be for him to keep a straight face. The thoughts — my God, the tangents! His brain must be covered with zigzag tracks. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad to read the thoughts of others, if only for the entertainment factor. Then again, Mark Whitacre is a rare breed. Only such a character — emphasis on character — could inspire such a perceptive and infectious human comedy that hides under a corruption scandal thriller.
In the mid-1990s, Whitacre is a rising — beaming — star at Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), an Illinois-based plant that processes corn into food ingredients and distributes them worldwide. He looks like a stereotypical businessman — a paunchy, rug-wearing, spectacled dweeb in a cheap suit. Why, he could just as soon sidle up to you with a grin that says “Say ‘Hi!’ to your family for me” or “I’ve got something really juicy to tell you!” Don’t get me started on his mustache. Listening to him talk about corn and the difference he makes in people’s lives, I can’t help but hear Jim McAllister self-congratulatory tone from Alexander Payne’s Election (1999) when he says, “The students knew it wasn’t just a job for me. I got involved!”