The Informant! — a few takeaways from the commentary track07.22.20
I think The Informant! is one of those completely overlooked gems even by a very famous director. Very funny, bizarrely based on a true story, it has truly one of the great Matt Damon performances from an incredibly imaginative script from Scott Z. Burns. Impeccably directed by the great Steven Soderbergh.
The commentary track has both Soderbergh and Scott Z. Burns on it (at a time when Scott Z. Burns had not yet directed and so they actually talk a little bit about that as apparently Soderbergh had asked for Scott Z. Burns to be on set everyday and Burns saying how appreciative he was of that). A few other things of note:
1. There are a lot of standup comedians in this film — including Tom Papa, the Smothers Brothers, Allan Havey, and Patton Oswalt. Soderbergh mentioned that he was looking for standups because he thought that standups constantly hone their stage persona so they would pop in a way just by their mere presence — they were great, perfectly in keeping with the tone of the movie, and their acting was great.
2. Soderbergh said that as he has gotten older, he has looked to see how *few* shots he could use to cover a scene. Less coverage. He said that he really doesn’t think that those additional shots improved the scene. This comment came later in the commentary and honestly, I watched the film a little differently afterwards. You know what? He’s absolutely right. He also later mentions a punch-in shot in one scene that he used just to give a little energy to exit the scene — maybe basic for other people, but I thought totally made sense and something that I noted in case I ever shot something again.
3. Soderbergh said he’s been following Melanie Lynskey’s career since… Heavenly Creatures. He said that he of course was struck by Kate Winslet, but was also struck by Melanie Lynskey. That movie came out in 1994. The Informant! came out in… 2009. That’s a little over a decade that he first took note of an actress before he ultimately cast her in something. (It’s possible something earlier fell through but he didn’t mention it.)
The film itself is highly recommended (it should be noted that it’s based on the great Kurt Eichenwald’s reporting) and Soderbergh and Burns have an easy banter and a curiosity between the two of both the filmmaking process generally but also not knowing how every element of this film came together that makes it a very worthwhile re-watch just for the commentary track.