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Intolerable Cruelty

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Intolerable Cruelty

Starring: George Clooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones
Director: Joel Coen
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 100 Minutes
Release Date: October 2003
Genres: Comedy, Romance

*Also starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Julia Duffy, Paul Adelstein, Mia Cottet, Geoffrey Rush, Cedric the Entertainer, Michael A. Tessiero, John Bliss, Stacey Travis

Review by Jerry Saravia
1 star out of 4

For every "Fargo" and "Blood Simple," there is a "Raising Arizona" or a "O' Brother, Where Art Thou?" In other words, the Coen Brothers can be at their best in their film noir mode, as proven with their last great film, "The Man Who Wasn't There," or they can create comic inanities the size of the moon, especially "Raising Arizona." "Intolerable Cruelty" is the Coens in their inanely comic mode with bizarre sequences and histrionic acting. It worked in "Big Lebowski" but here, it results in a humdrum disaster.

As is the case with most movies nowadays, "Intolerable Cruelty" starts off well. In the opening sequence, Geoffrey Rush plays a ponytailed TV producer who finds his wife cheating on him with the pool cleaner (a scene not unlike "Mulholland Dr." where a film director finds his wife in bed with the pool cleaner). Rush goes berserk, gets stabbed by his wife, starts shooting at her, and then calmly takes pictures of his butt so he can sue her in court. Then we are treated to a delightful opening credits sequence with Cupids firing arrows while we hear Elvis Presley's "Suspicious Minds." I thought we were in for a real treat. I was wrong.

George Clooney plays a cold-hearted divorce lawyer named Miles Massey, who is as concerned with the whiteness of his teeth as he is with the law or his fool proof prenup (one used in law school apparently). When he is in court, he is king of the hill. He oversees so many divorce cases that he is likely to lose his marbles (of course, the Coens show him off his rocker from the start). Then he becomes seriously smitten one day with Marylin Rexroth (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a serial divorcee seeking separation from her philandering husband (Edward Herrmann, looking more foolish than ever). Of course, Massey falls for Marylin's charms quickly, after winning the case against her, to the point that he would marry her and forgo his ironclad Massey prenup. But then Marylin marries some Texas oil tycoon (Billy Bob Thornton), whose manner of speech is as incomprehensible as the rest of the movie.

"Intolerable Cruelty" could be the Coens' own homage to the screwball comedy genre, a genre worth commemorating with the likes of classics such as "Bringing Up Baby" and "His Girl Friday." Unfortunately the film is hardly funny and seems to coast on the swagger and overexaggerated expressions of its stars, including George Clooney. I knew something was off when Clooney spends a lot of time fretting over his teeth, a trait not likely to be found in any of the leading men of the past. At least Zeta-Jones plays down the exaggeration, much to her benefit. She is a becalming presence, as sensuous, iridescent and glamorous as an actress can get. Her performance is the sole saving grace of this endless, deadly bore.

The rest of the cast acts funny, mugging excessively to the camera. Sometimes they speak in hushed tones, sometimes they scream out their lines. Some of the dialogue is clever, but you'd be hard-pressed to understand every bit of it. There is a cantankerous aging lawyer, strapped to a chair with tubes to keep him alive, who offers legal advice to Clooney - a Coens invention to be sure but I missed every word he said. Then there is an asthmatic hit man! Oh, yes, and then there is the private investigator (Cedric the Entertainer) who takes pictures of philandering husbands and wives caught with their pants down. All these characters are stripped of emotion, humanity or wit - they are like automatons operated by remote control.

"Intolerable Cruelty" looks like it was assembled out of outtakes and, to quote Andrew Dice Clay (!), it is all about as funny as a bottle of milk. It is a grueling, embarrassingly frustrating experience - all the more so for the

Copyright 2003 Jerry Saravia

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