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George Clooney stars as a self-loving whiter than white toothed lawyer
who is becoming bored with his never-ending success. A challenge comes
in the shapely form of Marilyn Rexroth (Catherine Zeta Jones) who wants
to marry (or preferably divorce) her way to riches. With Clooney hired
to represent her soon to be ex husband, he inevitably falls for the
gold diggers charms.
Directed by the Coen brothers, a directorial team who have helmed oddball comedies such as 'Fargo' and 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' this is the team's first branch in to a high profile Hollywood film. Clooney, as the sharp suited lawyer, is excellent. Like Cary Grant or David Niven, Clooney is able to mock himself without compensating his screen appeal. Catherine Zeta Jones as the money hungry Marilyn is as sexy as her character demands from the scripted page. However, despite the quick fire dialogue, Intolerable Cruelty is simply not as funny as it thinks, it's cynical message of love and money taking away the romantic push it needs to place it in the league of the Tracy/Hepburn films the movie aspires to. Clooney's character also suffers from an over enthusiastic plot that later drives his character to attempt to commit a crime that totally contradicts the audiences perception of him. A battle of the sexes comedy that has sex appeal but no romance, Intolerable Cruelty is a film that reaches for the golden age of Hollywood but only touches the bronze.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
No one in today's Hollywood is going to truly outshine past pairings such as Clark Gable and Joan Crawford, Cary Grant and Grace Kelly or even Rock Hudson and Doris Day. They simply had too much mystique and showbiz magic behind them for the tabloid-ridden stars of today to compete with. However, based on what's out there today, Clooney and Jones make a delicious, gorgeous pair. In this frothy, sometimes manic production, Clooney stars as an ace divorce attorney. So successful is he that he can turn around even the most airtight cases. Yet he has it all and is bored. After he pulls the rug out from under one of his clients' wives (Jones), she sets out to exact revenge upon him. The two play a cat and mouse game of I-got-you and you-got-me, with their actual feelings occasionally rising to the surface. Clooney is charm epitomized. His jaw-dropping good looks are actually beginning to show minor signs of wear (check out his cheek pores in that opening teeth cleaning sequence and note the onset of wrinkles and rasp in the voice -- though he still looks like a god in kind lighting), but thankfully, he's become such a decent actor that he should have no problem continuing a strong career. In this, he is comparable to Cary Grant, who remained attractive right up until his death. Unfortunately, he doesn't have QUITE the skill that Grant had, but he'll do. (Some of the lingo and jargon that Clooney has to emit looks and sounds like it's over his head.) Jones is astonishing. She has, without question, that old time glamour and the finely honed talent to carry her roles. Her face, clothes, hair...everything is stunning. Together, the two are blisteringly attractive and charismatic. The supporting cast is great here with Rush (in a surprisingly tiny role) hamming it up well and Thornton presenting another one of his oddball characterizations. Also of note are Cedric the Entertainer who is less annoying than expected and especially Adelstein as Clooney's adoring, sentimental cohort. (And it's fun to see Duffy get a big screen role which beautifully utilizes her brittle, nose-in-the-air persona.) One of the funniest and most shocking moments in the film comes courtesy of Keyes who plays an asthmatic hit man. The whole film is peppered with odd little characterizations, some funny, some intriguing, some just bizarre. (The diner waitress is hysterical. The hunky pool man is perfect. Clooney's boss is unintelligible and just plain weird.) The film seems to take place in it's own little world, which can sometimes be quite different from the one the rest of the audience lives in. The quirkiness and farcical nature of the film occasionally threaten to cross it over into Zucker brothers territory, but ultimately it keeps it's feet on the ground. A couple of familiar or dull moments can't dampen the spirit of the whole. The stars are deliriously attractive, the story has a few surprises along the way and the film is very easy on the eyes and often entertaining to the ear. There's also a delightful title sequence inspired by vintage Valentine cards.
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
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.
Miles Massey is an amazing divorce lawyer who has a well-earned reputation.
When he takes on the case of Rex Rexroth, who was caught on video cheating
with another woman, he successfully wins the case and leaves the wronged
wife, Marylin, with nothing. However he also falls for her, but she is
planning his downfall in return for her losing everything she
With a big name pair of leads, it does look very much like the Coen's were looking for a big screen hit that would support their work to a greater extent than the loyal fan base does. As that sort of film, it seems to be doing OK, but, I wondered, at what cost to the product? The film starts well enough with an interesting case which we actually see little of, however the character of Miles is enough to hold the film together. The film contains the usual mix of larger than life characters and quirky humour, but the central romancing doesn't always hold true and there are stretches where the humour dips away to find that there is very little left without it.
Having said that, this doesn't occur often enough to be a problem and the film is still pretty good fun. The characters are it's making and there are enough of those to make it work. Clooney excels in the lead with a strange sort of humour - the same sort of character he played in "O Brother" if you ask me, but he does seem to have a touch for the comic stuff. Jones is less assured and her character has less of the humour I expect from the Coens and is more of a straight role. The support cast is all good as they provide small snippets of humour, whether it be Wheezy Joe or the rude waitress.
Overall it is not the cleverest film the Coen's have done, nor the funniest or most satisfying but, as a multiplex pleasing romance with quirky humour, it does work and should be enjoyed as that.
I don't see why many hated this movie. I thought the Coen Brothers look at divorce court lawyers' lives in this comedy with a twist was actually pretty interesting. Thte script was first-rate, they sure can write, the direction was interesting for the most part, although film did lose intensity at parts. I thought the acting was great, especially George Clooney who i liked a lot in the lead, he was perfectly casted for this role. Zeta Jones was decent, she pulled off her role, although she still isn't a first-rate actress in my eyes. I thought Rush and Billy Bob Thornton were great in their supporting roles. Cedric the entertainer was wasted here. The film was decent, some good acting, script, decent direction, and nice atmosphere. 8/10
I saw it recently for the second time, and even though the huge holes in the plot are still there, I liked it much more than the first time. Thinking of the holes, Coens are very talented artists - perhaps we, the audiences are supposed to be smarter than Miles Massey (George Clooney - perfectly cast) - the very successful, always victorious divorce attorney for the rich and famous? Massey is the author of unbreakable "Massey's Pre - Nup" but he is so bored and restless than maybe he is waiting for someone who would be able to break it? Enters cool and sensual Marylin Rexroth (who looks exactly like Catherine Zeta-Jones), the woman who is after "wealth, independence, and freedom" and who "eats the men like Massey for breakfast" with the glass of French red wine Château Margot, 1954. Thus starts the game of wills, wits and desires with twists in every turn. Some of them are surprising and clever, some - predictable. "Intolerable Cruelty" may not be the best Coens' film but it is enjoyable, stylish, and funny. At least two scenes closer to the end of the movie are absolutely hilarious.
I had been slightly disappointed with the Coens' previous *The Man Who
Wasn't There* -- it was, in my judgment, their first non-masterpiece since
their apprentice-work *Blood Simple*. While all their films are
self-consciously derivative, *Wasn't There* was derivative without the wit
(though brilliantly filmed and acted regardless).
*Intolerable Cruelty* is a return to a less fussy Coen style. It's lean, mean, to the point, no wasted scenes. And it's very witty, featuring dialogue and references that have clearly sailed over the average idiot's head, as well as the fairweather Coen Brothers fan's head. Joel and Ethan remind us here that a mainstream IDEA for a movie is not equivalent to a STUPID idea for a movie. The movie mixes wild slapstick with delicious bon mots. There's always something going on. And the picture looks fantastic (another triumph for DP Roger Deakins), showing us a shimmering, sunlit paradise of an almost mythical Los Angeles. The leads, George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones, are also shot to advantage: neither have looked better, and Zeta Jones in particular practically sucks your breath away every time she appears in a different Rodeo Drive confection. Yowza!
The film failed, as almost all Coen Brothers' movies fail, at the box office because, while delightful and funny, it's also ICE-COLD. The filmmakers, as they always do, distance us from the characters, inviting us to contemplate them rather than to get emotionally involved with them. This is a formula for box-office disaster, especially for romantic comedy. The women-demographic who came expecting a chick-flick were turned off cold, and the guys stayed away, anyway. Coen Brothers "fans" once again proved to be a fickle bunch, lambasting the film as too "mainstream" while utterly failing to get the subtext. These are the same "fans", by the way, who avoided *Lebowski* and *Hudsucker* and *Barton Fink* because it was too "excessive" and/or "weird". Make up your minds, fairweathers. In any case, I'll be one of the "I-Told-You-Sos" when, a decade hence, *Intolerable Cruelty* will be regarded as one of the few intelligent romantic comedies made in recent times.
Let me put it this way: if you think a movie in which the two romantic leads put a contract on each other is too "mainstream", you've revealed yourself as a poseur who should leave the amateur reviewing to the grown-ups. Have a nice day.
Intolerable cruelty is possibly the best written romantic comedy of the
modern era. The script writers deserve much credit for this under rated
flick, as do Clooney and Zeta-Jones, who turn out their best
performances since the turn of the century.
On first viewing this movie can appear just another average comedy with a few names but nothing special. Its what I thought. I even tuned out for some period. But on my repeated viewing I picked up all the delicate intricacies and humour. I now cannot watch this film without feeling happy, it changes my mood. It has a brilliant balance of legal proceedings, meaningless humour, character revealing humour, trait development whilst raising some unavoidable issues about American divorce proceedings. I highly rate this film and ask viewers to relax and enjoy the humour but also pay close attention to the twists and turns.
Also, I recommend Intolerable Cruelty to the education department as it is ideal for students to study and analyse. It will keep them interested and allow them understand character development at its best, whilst giving them an insight into divorce law.
A surprisingly smart comedy from Joel and Ethan Cohen, INTOLERABLE CRUELTY is a deft and entertaining comedy about the relationship that develops between a fast talking attorney (George Clooney) and a man-eating gold digger (Catherine Zeta-Jones)who pretty much eats husbands for lunch. This delightful throwback to the Tracy-Hepburn, Grant-Russell comedies of the 30's and 40's moves at a nice pace and is anchored by a razor sharp performance by Clooney, who has rarely been more appealing on screen. Clooney does everything right here and his performance alone makes this film worth seeing, but Zeta-Jones never allows herself to be overshadowed by him in one of her more venomous characterizations. Worthwhile bits are also contributed by Geoffrey Rush, Billy Bob Thornton, Richard Jenkins, and Edward Herrmann. One of the most underrated comedies ever made which is a definite must-see for Clooney fans.
Miles Massey (George Clooney) is a divorce attorney whose clientele
consists primarily of the rich and powerful in the Los Angeles area.
He's well known for an "ironclad" prenuptial agreement named after him
and also known for taking his clients' spouses to the cleaners. But
when he works his magic against Marilyn Rexroth (Catherine Zeta-Jones),
he may have picked on the wrong person.
I didn't find Intolerable Cruelty very funny. I might have chuckled a couple times. The dialogue was mostly affected and pretentious to my ears. The story wasn't very interesting to me. I really couldn't get myself to care what happened to Miles or Marilyn. I've liked most of writers/directors Joel and Ethan Coen's previous films, but Intolerable Cruelty seemed to me to have little of the inventiveness and cleverness of their past efforts. I have also liked most of the past films that George Clooney, Billy Bob Thornton and Geoffrey Rush have been in, but here they seemed to be turning in just okay performances for bad material. Heck, I even loved Clooney's turn at Batman (1997's Batman & Robin), Thornton's portrayal of a rocket scientist in Armageddon (1998), and Geoffrey Rush's eccentric millionaire in House on Haunted Hill (1999), but Intolerable Cruelty just didn't work for me.
Still, I can't say the film was a complete failure. I'm giving it a 6 out of 10, which is equivalent to a "D" in my way of looking at ratings. The performances might have been just okay, but they were okay, not awful. The Coens managed some interesting shots, such as Rush through the windshield of his car, where we mostly see a reflection of trees. That was unusual, and effectively conveyed the heat and brightness of a summer day the way a more traditional shot wouldn't have. The opening scene had promise to me. The Wheezy Joe subplot was fun. The slight suggestions of surrealism in Miles' boss were very enjoyable, although on the other hand, I found myself lamenting that surrealism wasn't the focus of the whole film.
Glancing at other reviews, obviously the film worked for some people. Maybe if you're more in the market for a realist drama cum light farce about divorce lawyers, you'd appreciate it more than I did. But for me, it has me rethinking my desire to collect all of the Coen brothers' films on DVD.
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