Intolerable Cruelty

Year: 2003
Studio: Universal
Director: Joel Coen
Producer: Ethan Coen/Brian Grazer
Writer: Joel Coen/Ethan Coen
Cast: George Clooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Jenkins, Geoffrey Rush
If Porsche released a small, economical family wagon, there'd be a lot of interest, but how successful would it be? I can't see it working mysedlf, because small, economical family wagons aren't what Porsche does well. As a corporate spin doctor would say, it's not their core business.

That's not to say filmmakers should only ever produce the sort of movie they're known for. Ridley Scott, known for large, masculine studies of heroism, is meeting with some acclaim right now with Matchstick Men.

But you expect a certain something that's hard to put into words when you see a Coen brothers movie. Maybe a kind of... sophistication? It's true they've brought us everything from that bordering on slapstick (The Hudsucker Proxy) to comedy so dark you can't see it (The Man Who Wasn't There), but all their films share a theme of cleverly executed satire.

For them to do a straight romantic comedy isn't what does Intolerable Cruelty a disservice, but the things that makes the Coen brothers distinctive is completely AWOL. It's the Coen brothers meets the Zucker/Abrahams, Israel/Proft style of comedy. The discussion over whether attorneys Miles (Clooney) and Wrigley (Adelstein) have sat before the presiding judge before belonged more in a Flying High or Naked Gun than a Coen brothers movie.

Not that there weren't laughs - there were plenty, and they were good. But take away the (at times cheap) jokes, and with no identifiable Coen mark, there wasn't very much left.

Miles Massey (Clooney) faces the gorgeous and disarming Marilyn Rexroth (Zeta-Jones) in a divorce case, realising she's a serial divorcee intent on getting as much money as she can by marrying and then divorcing rich men. Wathcing her go through one more sham marriage to oil tycoon Howard (Thorton) and falling increasingly in love with her, Miles pursues her enough to win her loove and marry her before discovering she was playing him the same way.

The plot was pretty thin, characters seeming to change direction midstream for no apparent reason (after the whole film deals with her iron clad plan to make herself rich by noi man, Marilyn decides she really does love Miles in the last frame and abandons the lot).

George Clooney hams it up to deafening levels as the part Buster Keaton, part Rudolph Valentino divorce lawyer, and while the performances of comic timing were top notch, it all ended up feeling like more style than substance.

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