Miles Massey, a prominent Los Angeles divorce attorney has everything--and in some cases, two of everything. Despite his impressive client list, a formidable win record, the respect of his peers and an ironclad contract (the Massey pre-nup) named after him, he's reached a crossroads in his life. Sated on success, boredom has set in and he's looking for new challenges. All that changes when Miles meets his match in the devastating Marylin Rexroth. Marylin is the soon-to-be ex-wife of his client Rex Rexroth, a wealthy real estate developer and habitual philanderer. With the help of hard charging private investigator Gus Petch, she has Rex nailed and is looking forward to the financial independence a successful divorce will bring. But thanks to Miles' considerable skills, she ends up with nothing. Not to be outdone, Marylin schemes to get even and as part of her plan, quickly marries oil tycoon Howard Doyle. Miles and his unflappable associate, Wrigley, unwittingly dig themselves in ... Written by
Sujit R. Varma
I doubt that there are two more strikingly attractive actors in movies today than George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Zeta-Jones, in particular, has the kind of classic beauty that puts her right up there with the great screen legends of all time, women like Ingrid Bergman, Natalie Wood and Audrey Hepburn, who, with their ravishing good looks and photogenic quality, came to define the ideal of female pulchritude in their time.
Credit the Coen Brothers, who made `Intolerable Cruelty,' with having the good sense to know what they had in these two stars and for exploiting it to the full. They have allowed the actors to play off their good looks, most especially Ms. Zeta-Jones, portraying an icy gold-digger who specializes in marrying rich men with the express purpose of taking them for everything they've got once the marriage is ended. Clooney is the first-rate divorce lawyer who finally meets his match when he falls under the spell of this strangely bewitching woman.
The major joy in `Intolerable Cruelty' comes from watching these two tremendously attractive stars go at one another be it in lust, passion or anger. Miles and Marylin are both seasoned game-players and world-class manipulators who know how to get the better of the hapless victims who stumble headlong into their paths. Unfortunately, the film itself never lives up to its promise of becoming a slashing satire on the mores of our divorce-happy society. The main reason for this is that the script often shoots too low in its tone, opting for an overly broad, slapstick approach when a slyer, subtler style is what's really called for. It's not that `Intolerable Cruelty' doesn't provide its fair share of laughs; it's just that we feel there should be a whole lot more of them given the pedigree of the film's makers and the high-powered acting of its amazingly gifted cast.
In addition to Clooney and Zeta-Jones who hit all the right notes in their playing off one another the lineup also includes Geoffrey Rush, Billy Bob Thornton, Edward Herrmann, Richard Jenkins and Cedric the Entertainer, who steals the few scenes he's in with his manic interpretation of a private investigator who specializes in capturing wayward spouses in compromising positions.
Perhaps, `Intolerable Cruelty,' for all its moments of mirth and fun, simply doesn't go far enough into the realm of outrageousness to make the concept really work. The Coen Brothers, who have proven themselves masters of the absurd in the past, for some reason seem to be holding back in this film, going for the easy laugh and the easy sentiment when what we really want is for them to cut loose and go for the jugular (as Danny De Vito did with similar material in `The War of the Roses' so many years ago). Maybe Miles and Marylin need to be a little more nasty, a trifle more cutthroat in their demeanor to bring it all to life.
`Intolerable Cruelty' offers some hearty chuckles and some definite eye-candy in the person of Ms. Zeta-Jones, but, when all is said and done, the film is mainly just promises and not enough delivery.
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