In the Dark

Cupidity

The Informant!
Produced and distributed by Warner Brothers
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Screenplay by Scott Z. Burns based on Kurt Eichenwald’s book

 

Radix omnium malorum est cupiditas,” Chaucer’s pardoner warned his guilt-ridden audiences: The root of all evil is greed.  Steven Soderbergh’s The Informant! serves as a latter-day illustration of this admonition.

In The Informant! cupidity expresses itself as avoirdupois.  In this true story of the 1990’s international price-fixing scandal at the agribusiness behemoth Archer Daniels Midland, all the company’s executives are overweight, especially when compared with the modestly paid FBI agents who pursue them.  It’s what a medievalist would call a pictorial exemplum.  Fat denotes exorbitant acquisitiveness; thinness, virtuous moderation.  That is why Matt Damon gained 30 pounds to play the part of Mark Whitacre, the ADM executive who blew the whistle on his company’s malfeasance even as he benefited from it.  While it’s a hazardous stunt, Damon’s weight gain has the advantage of literally bestowing gravitas on his portrayal of an ambitious and needy young man eager to move up in the world at whatever cost.

Damon plays Whitacre as a grown-up Tom Sawyer, a 35-year-old man who cultivates a...

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