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Intolerable Cruelty (2003)
The movie begins with such over the top zaniness I almost didn't keep going. It comes from the funny side of the Coen Brothers work--like "Raising Arizona" or "O Brother Where Art Thou?" And it has some funny moments for sure, but overall it has a formulaic romantic comedy plot and routine construction and filming.
George Clooney almost makes the film good on his own. He's smart, sharp, varied from scene to scene, and he fits his role. The icy "beauty" that trips him up in his matrimonial law practice is place by Catherine Zeta-Jones, who just can't quite act, and the part needed a real actor there. The interplay between them was meant to be like the old screwball comedy days with hyperbole and the clashing of stars who, you assume, have to get together by the end. Zeta-Jones can't keep up with Clooney here.
The plot is like any number of comedies where there's a simple clever situation and a simple impediment to success. In this case the lawyer played by Clooney makes a ton of money arranging divorces that enrich his clients. And him. He's great at this until one day the Zeta-Jones character ends up across the table from him and he somehow withers, as if he's met his match.
We're supposed to think these two have chemistry, and that the battle of wits and tricks that ensues is all foreplay of some sort. And it's meant to be funny (which is often is, but the script has too many clichés). By the end there is a rousing speech which is lame, and maybe lame on purpose because the crowd loves the speech beyond reason, but it doesn't carry. The convoluted cleverness of the director/producer/writer team (Joel and Ethan) isn't really focused here.
I have to admit I wouldn't have finished this if it wasn't a Coen brothers movie because I really love some of their films. But be prepared for something not quite as amazing or different as it could be.
The Coen brothers have always been something of an acquired taste.
Their comedies never feel like conventional comedies and their dramas
always have an indiscernible quirk to them that is hard to pinpoint. It
would appear their forte is more cult comedies with the popularity of
their films The Big Lebowski and Raising Arizona. I only fuel this
statement by the evidence that their film Intolerable Cruelty is an
under-nourishing exercise in dramatic filmmaking that features great
screen presences chewing scenery and taking in the luxurious set
designs they've been placed in.
Miles Massey (George Clooney) is a top divorce attorney who agrees to take Rex Rexroth's (Edward Herrmann) case, which involves him cheating on his wife Marylin (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Marylin married Rex solely for his wealth and financial stability, so her plan is obviously to take him for all he's worth in this case. However, she is informed that Miles is an amazing attorney who is greatly feared in the field. When she winds up losing her case, she makes Miles as smitten as she possibly can with her smile, curvaceous body, and audacious beauty so that she can do the same for him. But Miles is smarter to fall for that, isn't he? The twist that is employed within the storyline of Intolerable Cruelty is that those who hold the notion t-hey are smart are the dumbest when put on the spot. And yet, this is a facile justification/moral for this kind of a story. The toneless monotony of the film further obscures this notion. It's difficult to recall a more boring, uninteresting setup that pairs some of the most likable actors of this generation.
George Clooney is one the most attractive and likable leading men in cinema as we know it. He has a smile that has the warmth and depth of not an actor but a top executive or outgoing business man. Catherine Zeta-Jones basks in this same sort of charisma and charm in her acting chops and creates the brewing sense of lust and attraction in her male followers much like Clooney does in his female ones. These two are an incredible screen duo criminally underutilized in this formula. Underutilized in the sense that they are given a story with no direction or particular genre in mind.
The talent here feels submissive to the mediocrity of the Coen brothers' screenplay, which has something of a tonal crisis. The Coens struggle through discovering whether black comedy, screwball comedy, or courtroom drama is the proper way to carry out this story. What we get is a marginally convincing, lukewarm hybrid between several genres we know the Coens can make fun and in-depth but for some reason do not in this case.
Some films are good for reasons that are not elaborate or as deep as others. The same goes for lesser films or simply bad ones. Intolerable Cruelty suffers from the fact that the material isn't that interesting, the characters are stuffy and vanilla, and the directions taken by the Coens do nothing but make a relatively unengaging, forgettable picture.
Perhaps you're a big fan of the brothers Coen and you enjoy this film. Before settling on the idea that the performances are good and the humor is wry and funny, justify your favorable reactions towards it. Think if the Coens had been opted out for a random, aspiring filmmaker and the actors taken several steps down from Clooney and Zeta-Jones to indie-stars like Kentucker Audley and Lake Bell, would your reaction still be as strong?
Starring: George Clooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Edward Herrmann. Directed by: Joel Coen.
At first glance Intolerable Cruelty doesn't seem like a typical Coen
brothers movie at all. With its 'rom-com' vibe and disgustingly
good-looking leads, it seems like the Coens had sold out to the studios
and were chasing the big bucks like everyone else.
Oh ye of little faith! If anything Intolerable Cruelty is one of the most enjoyable Coen flicks since Hudsucker Proxy. Set among the shark-infested waters of Los Angeles' divorce lawyers, Intolerable Cruelty is as cynical a rom-com as you'd ever expect to see, with Catherine Zeta Jones excelling as the professional gold-digger who eventually falls for divorce attorney Miles Massey, played with great comedic zest by the disgustingly good-looking AND talented George Clooney.
The script is packed with gems and repeated viewings are necessary to catch every little barb and quip. It is also rich with highly entertaining supporting roles by the likes of Geoffrey Rush, Richard Jenkins, Billy Bob Thornton, Cedric the Entertainer and Julia Duffy, not to forget Jonathan Hadary as the inimitable 'Heinz the Baron Krauss von Espy'. Personally I feel this is one of their most under-appreciated movies, I should know - I dismissed it myself when I first heard about it, but have since purchased the DVD and watch it whenever I need a belly laugh.
By the time Geoffrey Rush hoves into view in his open top Merc to the strains of Simon and Garfunkel I am already chuckling in anticipation of once again enjoying one of my all-time favourites.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Intolerable Cruelty was a film that didn't originate with the Coen brothers.
Unlike such masterpieces as Blood Simple and Fargo, and even theatrical
sleepers like The Man Who Wasn't There and The Big Lebowski, this was a film
in all likely-hood offered to them from producer Brian Grazer and from a
story by Matthew Stone and Robert Ramsey (of EdTV fame if you're wondering
who they are). Indeed, this is the first time a Coen brothers film (with a
possible exception being O Brother Where Art Thou, which also starred George
Clooney) looks 'big' bucks.
There are signs in the story of why Joel and Ethan Coen would want to make this movie, since it has an intriguing idea that runs along their sense of sly/cleverness. Miles Massey (Clooney, showing off his teeth) is a marriage lawyer who's risen to fame among his ranks for win after win, and a pre-nup named after him that's impenetrable. Enter Rex Rexroth (Edward Hermann), who has been caught on camera in a scene of infidelity, and still wants to get away without giving her anything in divorce court. His wife is the icy, gorgeous Marilyn (Catherine Zeta-Jones in a performance within a performance), who through the course of the film has a few tricks up her sleeve, which impresses Miles enough to start falling in love with her. This, even as she plans to re-marry after her divorce to an oil tycoon (Billy Bob Thornton, who gives a small role that should've had more to it).
I wouldn't consider Intolerable Cruelty to be a perpetually bad film, in fact there were a few of characters of note that brought out belly laughs from me: Geoffrey Rush shows off his acting chops in the opening scene, and two bit parts for Jonathan Hadary as Heinz, the Baron Krauss von Espy, and Irwin Keyes as Wheezy Joe, reminded me what irreverent and uproarious spirit the Coens bring to their films. However, a lot of the film is filled mostly with dialog, though clever, that probably looked funnier on paper - the performances by the stars mean well, but a lot of times the combination of the acting and writing is dry. Do Clooney and Zeta-Jones have chemistry, yes, but when a story like this is this obvious it blocks real interest in these characters, who for at least half of the film are shallow amidst the romantic/black comedy. C+
Despite having Zeta-Jones, this was hardly watchable. It was NOT funny save for one rare moment. It was bad writing, mediocre acting, poor plot, etc. Although endings in film are often not known for being believable, this takes that problem to a height. In summary, it was just not entertaining.
I saw this movie last week on the airplane when travelling overseas. So maybe the circomstances weren't the same as in the cinema, but that doesn't change the contents of a film and I have to say: it was really baddddd... I thought it would at least be somewhat funny, but not at all. Same old stuff over and over again, I wasn't even able to grin! Is this what we call humour nowadays? I'm glad I didn't spend a single euro on that in any case... The only good thing about the movie was the good looks of the actors, but for the rest... One big zero!
What a mess! One of the worst cinematic pieces of Rubbish of this or any
other Century! Now George Clooney has made two movies on the IMDb worst 100
movies list This One and Batman....jeeze ....I just wanted everyone in this
movie to die. Not Funny, Not Clever....
The acting, If one can call it that was hackneyed, Contrived, posed, and just plain awful. In a word "hammy" at the best, and borrish and Silly at the worst. This was a film about truly dispicble people whom we were supposed to laugh at....In our film, Hero (yeah right) George has an epiphany of regret from his evil ways and finds "love" in his heart of hearts...then in the next seen wants the object of his new found profound love "Whacked!?" Yeah, Right, Now there is a Movie for the New Milineum....Aaaaargh! What a waist of money and time...
This is an awful film that has nothing to recommend it for. The actors look embarrassed and it just falls apart after an O.K. start. You leave the theater wondering WHAT WENT SO WRONG. I was VERY disappointed by this movie and I cannot recommend this rubbish. Awful film. Bad, BAD, BAD!!!!
Sitting through this movie was definitely Intolerable Cruelty. The sparse plot was too predictable and the characters were too over the top and cliche'. The chemistry between George Clooney and Catherine Zeta Jones was nearly non-existent. The movie had good potential but the movie fell way short.
Abysmal, abysmal, abysmal.
It is the worst film my wife and I have ever seen. Well, close to the worst. Except for the old "well connected" geezer scenes, it is NOT funny. The plot is ridiculous. A bad, boring story badly, boringly told. The leading lady, lovely but vacuous. A cardboard cutout. The leading man, ugly and unfunny.
The type of film where you wear out your watch battery looking at the time and how long you have been suffering through it. How any reviewer can see any merit in it is beyond my understanding. We were ashamed of walking out of the theatre at the end of the film. Why had we not walked out at the beginning. Have we no taste ?
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