Review by Gordon Justesen
George Clooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Geoffrey Rush, Cedric the Entertainer,
Edward Herrmann, Richard Jenkins, Billy Bob Thorton
Director: Joel Coen
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 100 Minutes
Release Date: February 10, 2004
you propose, that in spite demonstrable infidelity on your part, that your
unoffending wife should be tossed out on her ear."
I entered Intolerable
Cruelty with a slight bit of caution. I was only skeptic as to see if the
dynamic filmmaking team of brothers Joel and Ethan Coen, who have long been
known for their quirky independent fare, could deliver with a big studio release
with a much larger budget. Although a good number of their films, especially Fargo and O Brother, Where Art
Thou, had resulted in something of crossover successes. Another element that
had me crossing my fingers even more was that it was being advertised as a
straight up romantic comedy, a genre I could never imagine the Coens even
skepticism was washed away about a few minutes into the movie, which is a biting
charmer of a dark comedy. In some ways, it could be considered an all out satire
on the divorce process. The Coen's winning sense of edginess helps fuel this
romp, which also manages to include the undeniable chemistry of George Clooney
and Catherine Zeta-Jones, and although they are the two ideal stars for the
ultimate romantic comedy, the screenplay, co-written by the Coens, is special in
the way it strays from the conventions of the genre.
The hero of the
story, for the male side that is, is Miles Massey (Clooney) a hot shot Beverly
Hills divorce attorney who's as unbeatable as they come. Living an
extraordinarily wealthy life, Miles is more concerned with the destruction of
his opponent than how soon he can add another Mercedes to his collection, since
he has a tab at the dealership. On the opposite side is Marylin Rexroth
(Zeta-Jones), who is looking to nail her cheating husband, Rex (Edward
Herrmann), for all the assets. But as it turns out, the infidelity on the
husband's part didn't really cause the divorce proceedings, as Marylin was
planning on walking away with all the money, having made Rex fall so hard in
love with her that the idea of a prenup seemed uncalled for.
Even though Miles
is representing Rex in the divorce proceedings, he too is soon caught under
Marylin's seductive spell. With the divorce matter is over, Miles still finds
himself fascinated by this creature, as he puts it, and tries to charm her, even
as she shows up on the arm of a rich oil tycoon (Billy Bob Thorton), for which
looks like another potential cash in for Marylin, in the wake of another
purposefully ill fated marriage without the presence of a prenup.
So do Miles and
Marylin ever manage to win each others hearts? I won't reveal quite what
happens, but I will say that the movie hits moments of comedic brilliance in the
later points of the film, which is where the comedy turns a little dark, much in
the Coen Brothers' tradition. It leads to the late introduction of an asthmatic
hit man, and it leads to quite possibly the single biggest laugh I had in any
movie in a long long time. I think back to the first time I saw Cameron Diaz
apply the hair gel in There's Something
About Mary, only I think I laughed longer and harder during this scene.
Cruelty, Joel and Ethan Coen demonstrate that they can still deliver a
quirky and edgy comedy outside their usual independent circuit, even though
their last several films have been a bit more mainstream since the days of Fargo
and Blood Simple. Clooney has never
been more engagingly charming and Catherine has never, I stress the word NEVER,
looked more sultry and beautiful than she does here, and she pulls of the role
with flying colors.
For a romantic
comedy, Intolerable Cruelty must be
given lots of credit for broadening the conventions of the genre.
Universal has no
doubt released their first great looking release of the year. With
cinematographer Roger Deakins once again working under the Coen's, the movie has
sure enough been given an already memorable and striking look to it. Like his
photographed work for O Brother, Where Art
Thou and The Man Who Wasn't There,
Deakins creates shots that do nothing short of bringing the atmosphere to life.
Picture clarity is at its utmost highest, and colors are bright and beautifully
natural as can be.
The 5.1 mix is
livelier than you may expect. Being a Coen Brothers film, one should expect the
extra kicks provided within the soundmix. Music playback is very well handled,
as classics by Simon and Garfunkel and Elvis Presley appear in clear form, as
does the breezy score by Carter Burwell. Dialogue is at its sharpest delivery,
and numerous scenes of dark comedy have a good sounding payoff as well.
The only lacking
area of the disc. Included are two brief featurettes, one on the production and
one on the wardrobe, as well as some outtakes and some of Rex Rexroth's home
movies (mostly of trains).