Pictures presents a film directed by Joel Coen. Written
by Robert Ramsey, Matthew Stone, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen.
Based on a story by Ramsey, Stone and John Romano. Running
time: 100 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for sexual content, language
and brief violence). Starring
Clooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Geoffrey Rush, Cedric the
Entertainer, Edward Herrmann, Paul Adelstein, Richard
Jenkins, Billy Bob Thornton, Julia Duffy.
Coens are hugely talented filmmakers, and their movies have
been some of the most celebrated films of the past decade.
They are also never afraid to try something different. Blood
Simple, Miller's Crossing, and Barton Fink
are more serious films. The Hudsucker Proxy is a scathing
satire. Fargo is an offbeat crime drama which earned
many Oscar nominations and several wins. The Big Lebowski
is one of the funniest films of the nineties. Their latest,
Intolerable Cruelty, won't go down as being among their
best, but it's still an enjoyable motion picture, and probably
the funniest comedy yet this year.
biggest problem Intolerable Cruelty has is that it
lacks the Coens' trademark feel. This is certainly largely
in part because the screenplay wasn't entirely written by
them. Some of the jokes fall flat, and one running joke feels
a little too over-the-top for the rest of the production.
Still, throughout the 100 minutes, there are more laughs to
be had than in any other movie to be released this year.
Massey (George Clooney) is a divorce attorney famous for his
"Massey prenup", a prenuptial agreement that has
never been broken. The only thing he cares about is winning,
and winning absolutely. During a divorce trial, Massey meets
Marilyn Rexroth (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a man-eater who only
cares about money. As time passes, the two find themselves
crossing paths more than once, and a romance forms.
Clooney and Zeta-Jones are perfectly cast. Their roles fit
each actors' personalities perfectly. Never has Clooney been
better; as the laid-back, smooth-talking Miles, he is perfectly
at home. Zeta-Jones is one of the most beautiful women alive,
a trait she mixes with upper-class haughtiness to great affect.
Occasionally, her Welsh accent slips in, but it's not really
a problem. And the chemistry the two share is undeniable and
impressive. Too few screen couples work this well together.
screenplay (which the Coens rewrote) allows the characters
to become more than conventional romantic comedy caricatures.
Still, Marilyn is genuinely unlikeable up until only the final
twenty minutes or so, and it's hard to root for her. That
would be fine if Intolerable Cruelty was bleak or dark
like The War of the Roses, but it's more upbeat than
that, so finding it hard to like one of the leads is a flaw.
However, because of Zeta-Jones's unmatchable charm, this only
a minor quibble.
supporting cast is strong. Geoffery Rush is delightfully flamboyant,
and would certainly steal scenes if he was in very many. Cedric
the Entertainer, as a private investigator, is also entertaining,
but his catch-phrase ("I'm gonna nail your ass")
is slightly overused. And Billy Bob Thornton, as Marilyn's
second husband, manages to make an impression in just two
is a good film, and it just barely misses greatness. Many
of the one-liners are biting and hilarious, and the two charming
leads are a delight to watch. But, while only a few minor
jokes fail, one major one involving the senior partner of
Miles's firm is consistantly grating and out of place. Still,
this and the aforementioned problem with the character of
Marilyn are minor quibbles overall, and are absolutely no
reason to miss this film. I recommend it.
2003 Matt Noller