Sunday, October 9, 2011

Intolerable Cruelty

By Sati. Sunday, October 9, 2011 , , , , , , ,
(100 min, 2003)
Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Writers: Robert Ramsey (story), Matthew Stone (story), John Romano (story) Ethan Coen (screenplay), Joel Coen (screenplay)
Stars: George Clooney, Catherine Zeta Jones and Billy Bob Thorthon
Fool me once...

“One should always be in love. That is the reason one should never marry.“
- Oscar Wilde

“Intolerable Cruelty” is one of my favorite comedies and one of the most underrated movies ever. What's interesting it's that it's not underrated by the critics, but by the movie goers. And I happen to love this film and no matter how many times I see it I always laugh.

The film focuses on divorce attorney Miles Massey (Clooney), who is brilliant at his job – he can shift blame from unfaithful wife to innocent husband, he can undermine any evidence, he can charm the judge and find the witnesses no matter where they are. One day a client comes to him, worried about the fact his wife may want to take everything from him and he intends to give her nothing. The wife, whose sole purpose was to get married and then get rich in the divorce, Marylin (Catherine Zeta Jones) loses the case, because of Massey's skills. What's making matters worse is that they are both interested in each other.

The movie has brilliant script – the only scenes I didn't like were with Gus Petch, who catches people on infidelity for a living, it's seemed too silly compared to another jokes, frequently absurd, but very clever. The dialogues are incredibly smart and witty and the characters are very memorable, despite acting stupid at times, they are also very likeable. Some of the scenes – for example first deposition scene, Marylin's wedding and the phone call Miles makes to Wheezy Joe are pure gold. The movies makes fun of marriage, divorces, lawyers and their clients who are so easily manipulated. But it never makes fun of love.

Massey is played by George Clooney. That character is actually very close to the description of Michael Clayton – good at his job, slightly frustrated, looking for more. There are two differences – one is comedy, another is a serious drama and Clooney's acting. It is amazing that he can play such person so differently. He has great comedy skills and he truly was hilarious in this – the delivery of the lines, his maniacal laugh, his constant checking of his perfectly white teeth, (reference to “blood sucking lawyer”, I guess) and his bored repetition of other people's words. He is also insanely charming – the courtroom scenes, especially when he questions Marylin and for few seconds he just walks around staring at her. I was smitten. He won his Globe for another comedy role in another Coens' movie “O Brother Where Art Thou?” but this performance, in “Intolerable Cruelty” was so much better. He is the most charming and most funny in Coens' films.

Marylin is very clever and calculating – she comes up with elaborate plan to get back on Miles, never letting him know of her intentions and executing whole ploy beautiful. Her aim is independence, wealth and power. She is a true femme fatale, using men for her own benefit. But beneath the surface she starts to notice what Miles had already discovered – that money is not everything and without love and people around you nothing really matters. Cliche? Maybe. But the movie is everything but it.

The films features, as usual in Coen brothers' film, the whole spectrum of interesting characters – cheated husband who we meet in great prologue (Geoffrey Rush), Miles's attorney friend who always cries at weddings (Paul Adelstein), chatty husband of Marilyn (Billy Bob Thorton) and opposing counselor who is constantly humiliated by Miles (Richard Jenkins). The cast is impressive and everyone does great job. Zeta Jones and Clooney have fantastic chemistry and there is definitely a lot of heat going on between them – Clooney kisses a woman and things must happen – electricity goes off, steam is coming out of the tub or in this case – music gets louder and louder. And Zeta only needs to throw one look to fascinate both Miles and the audience.

The film has many inside jokes - Billy Bob Thornton speaks very fast because his character in “The Man Who Wasn't There” speaks slowly, in the scene where Miles is summoned to see his boss the same music is played as when the Dude was sent to Lebowski and so much more references to both Coens movies and another ones*. Oh – and there are heart shapes, hidden everywhere in the film And I'm not just talking about the adorable opening credits.

The movie is about the fight and games in which two sides are attractive, intelligent and determined. The trouble is that we root for both, because they are so likeable and we want them to be happy at last. This is a romantic comedy, unlike any romantic comedy I saw so far – the usually fragile heroine, here is strong and has rottweilers and the hero at one point of the movie hires a hit man to kill the woman he loves. Watching all of this is so much fun, because the movie never pretends to be serious, never loses its comedy tone. In “Fargo” it happened a lot, in “Burn After Reading” it happened few times. I'm not saying it's a bad thing – I'm saying I don't like when the movie breaks the pattern like that. I always liked “The Big Lebowski” and this movie the best because they stuck to the genre – sometimes it works and had the Coens insisted on putting something dead serious here it would kill the light charm and fun atmosphere of “Intolerable Cruelty” . Everyone seems to be so thrilled and in awe when somebody juggles with genres, but I was never a fan of that. There is still so much to invent withing the frames of drama, thriller and comedy – and the last one is proven by this movie.

* very interesting article concerning the movie -


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