Intolerable Cruelty movie full length review - `Cruel' to be good
Rating: **** (out of *****)
In Intolerable Cruelty, our leads are a lawyer and a seductive woman ? hold on, haven't we been here before? In a way, it feels like we're going back to Chicago, without the music. Hey, even Catherine Zeta-Jones is in this, playing the seductive woman of all people.
But this is something completely different. For instance, there's no sign of Richard Gere (Incidentally, if you'd put him in this film, it would surely have sunk). No, instead George Clooney plays the lawyer, and the end result is a rather fine, if slightly lightweight, film.
Intolerable Cruelty definitely isn't your traditional romantic comedy. It contains a little bit of romance, yes, but you'll also see satirical and dramatic elements thrown in. The comedy, meanwhile, is mostly dark, witty and twisted. That's not much of a surprise, though, when you consider that the film is co-written and directed by none other than the Coen brothers. It's quite possible to imagine that the film would have been far more run of the mill without their influence.
Because they didn't write Intolerable Cruelty on their own, you shouldn't expect it to be totally Coen. In fact, if you're a fan, their humour's probably the only thing you'll recognise. But here, that's not a problem.
Miles Massey (Clooney), a clever divorce lawyer bored by his constant success, faces one of his toughest cases yet; preventing the devious Marylin Rexroth (Zeta-Jones) from obtaining the full value of the divorce settlement from her latest husband. What he isn't yet aware of is that Marylin consistently flirts from husband to husband, always gaining the settlement for herself, and thus becoming richer. But her life ? and his ? are about to change dramatically.
The Coens allow both Clooney and Zeta-Jones to relax and be themselves, and it works wonderfully. Even if chemistry between them is no more than serviceable, it's great to watch them spouting good dialogue at one another. These two are really just playing on their traditional screen personalities of charismatic (but troubled) central figure and self-indulgent attention hunter. And I don't recall Mrs. Douglas looking better in a film for some time. I'm not her strongest supporter, but few others could have played her part so well. Watch out for very funny appearances by the likes of Geoffrey Rush, Billy Bob Thornton and Cedric the Entertainer also.
There are at least two laugh-out loud scenes in a large collection of sharp (and sometimes physical) humour. The title sequence is pretty inspired, as is regular Coen collaborator Carter Burwell's use of music (which includes neat take off's on the work of Simon & Garfunkel and Elvis). At one point, however, the physical comedy is overdone, and a few parts of the film don't make much sense. These are minor complaints though.
It's a tribute to the Coens' bizarre talents that they've taken what could have been ordinary and made it something much more remarkable. I poured praise on them a few years ago for transforming Homer's Odyssey into such superb entertainment (in the form of O Brother, Where Art Thou?), and while watching this film didn't provoke quite as enthusiastic a reaction from me, it's impossible to deny that they've come up with the goods again. Intolerable Cruelty may not be substantial enough to leave a really long lasting impression, but it will definitely keep you entertained.