Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Intolerable Cruelty

Intolerable Cruelty, 2003
Dir: Joel Coen (and Ethan Coen)
August 10, 2009

It's pretty obvious that once you see the credits start to roll at the end of the movie, and you see a bunch of other dudes' names tacked on to the end of the screenwriting credits other than Joel and Ethan, you realize that the script might have been "doctored" up a bit to be more viewer-friendly. It's not a solid film by any means, but I'm pretty sure I don't hate it; in fact I found myself really enjoying a lot of it. A film bookended by Geoffrey Rush playing a bizarro pony-tailed Australian douche TV producer can't be all that bad.

So Hollywood wanted the Coens' to make a romantic comedy, a real doozy "battle-of-the-sexes" with stars that will fill the seats, or did the Coens convince them to let them make this? Whatever the circumstance, they can't really help themselves in turning it into a black comedy. The most prominent divorce lawyer in the country, Miles Massey (George Clooney), gets enamored with the scheming wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) of a wealthy real estate magnate (Edward Herrmann). When he helps the magnate keep all of his money in trial, leaving the wife with nothing, she plots revenge. Honestly, the first half of this movie has a breezy pace, is filled with enough clever dialogue and has enough weird "Coen" moments that I thought I was going to give this a positive review, but the time jump and the ending certainly make this film a mixed bag.

The Coens' leave their technical flair at home and seem to be more interested in the characters and dialogue, which has it's moments, to be sure. The acting is pretty stellar as well, and even CZJ is tolerable. Clooney's eccentric lawyer has strange enough lines and tendencies to appreciate, and mot of the supporting cast lends a pretty good helping hand, especially Billy Bob Thornton as a moronic oil baron. However, I'm still not quite sure why Cedric the Entertainer is in the film. The whole film trashes all over Los Angeles and the culture that thrives there, which the Coens' also did in Barton Fink (1991), but the "happily-ever-after" ending seems at odds with that and all the Coens' stand for, and the general thesis of the film is full of Hollywood bullshit. I dunno, the film is just too inconsistent, and not in a good way. A Coen Brothers film, no doubt, but a poor copy.

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