"Now a major motion picture" is the worst thing that can ever happen to a book — short of, say, an open flame. And in this day and age, no one is safe. It happened to Life of Pi; it happened to The Great Gatsby; heck, it happened to Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy. And now it has happened to William Faulkner. James Franco's scowling mug now takes up 70% of the cover for As I Lay Dying.
Since our copies of the novel are lovingly battered, dog-eared, and annotated, and, that being the way we like it, we haven't been in the market for a new edition recently, we didn't make this discovery until Time Out New York's Keith Uhlich tweeted the travesty (below). A facepalm has never been so well deserved.
Oh for fuck's sake. pic.twitter.com/3V0dMgB9fI
— Keith Uhlich (@keithuhlich) September 12, 2013
We've been skeptical of this adaptation for a long time, due less to Franco's involvement than to the seemily unadaptable nature of the book, but now we hate it. We hate the whole project and what it's doing to American literature. We hate James Franco's stupid face. (Well, not really, but it's about as close as we've ever come.) We need someone to blame for this crime against literature, and he's literally the poster boy.
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WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Adapted by Bret Easton Ellis (Less Than Zero The Rules of Attraction American Psycho) from his own 1994 novel about the excesses of the rich and not-so-lucky in Hollywood circa 1983 this shallow film seems out of touch now in a time of economic turmoil — even if it is disguised as a period piece. Presented as a multi-story look at L.A. at its sordid best The Informers introduces us to a sleazy movie executive his estranged wife her poolboy lover a coked-out British punk rock star a fading newscaster a voyeuristic doorman a slimy ex-con and any number of beautiful vapid sexed-up twentysomethings who seem to spend their days either partying or snorting immune to any kind of social consciousness in an era marked by the dawn of the AIDS epidemic.
WHO’S IN IT?
The ensemble cast is split between older stars who’ve seen better days and a promising group of new talent unfortunately caught up in this mess. Billy Bob Thornton sleepwalks through the studio exec role while a pre-Wrestler Mickey Rourke (in a glorified cameo) shows us the kind of dreck he’s been stuck in the last few years as a tough ex-con who seems obsessed with someone called “the Indian.” Kim Basinger survives intact as a long-suffering Hollywood wife looking for a human connection from anyone who crosses her path while Winona Ryder projects just a shadow of her once-promising career as the aging newscaster. The late Brad Renfro who himself apparently fell victim to a drug-induced lifestyle is oddly touching as the peeping-tom doorman. Filling in the lost youth part of the equation are Jon Foster Amber Heard Austin Nichols Lou Taylor Pucci and amusing British star Mel Raido who do the best they can with their clothes on and off. Chris Isaak and Rhys Ifans also turn up in minor roles.
For what it’s worth The Informers has been handsomely shot and does capture emotional deadness well but unfortunately there’s nothing behind the façade of a group of characters we just don’t care about.
Ellis covered this all in Less Than Zero — same era same losers — so did we really need a LESS THAN Less Than Zero in 2009? It’s also a shame to see a fine group of actors so completely wasted both on screen and off.
BEST STONED-OUT LOSER SCENE:
The tenor of the whole film is summed up in the ice cube-filled bathtub sequence where a drunken almost catatonic British rocker proceeds to nearly kill himself trying to light a cigarette and answer a phone that NEVER stops ringing.
NETFLIX OR MULTIPLEX:
This movie may already be available on DVD before you finish reading this review.