Intolerable Cruelty (2003) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • A beautiful gold digger matches wits with a shrewd Beverly Hills divorce lawyer who is increasingly attracted to her.

  • 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 deeper and deeper as they go head-to-head with Marylin. Underhanded tactics, deceptions and an undeniable attraction escalate as Marylin and Miles square off in this classic battle of the sexes.

  • Divorce attorney Miles Massey has everything, a jet, a jet washer, three gardeners (or "those little lawn people" as he puts it), and even a marriage contract (The Massey Prenup) named after him. He seems to be unstoppable and completely invincible. That is, until he meets the beautiful, dangerous Marylin Rexroth. After being completely destroyed in court, Marylin formulates a plan that puts Miles in a position where he doesn't know what to do. For the first time in his life, he doesn't have what he wants the most.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Soap opera producer Donovan Donaly comes home to find his wife, Bonnie, getting it on with a pool cleaner named Ollie. Donaly brandishes a gun to shoot Ollie, but his wife stabs him in the bum with his own pointy Lifetime Achievement Award trophy. Ollie and Bonnie run away while Donaly shoots at them from a balcony, later taking pictures of his wounded behind as proof that his wife attacked him first.

    Miles Massey is the U.S.'s top divorce attorney, creator of the Massey Pre-Nup, a prenuptial agreement which has never been successfully challenged, meaning that no party to it can benefit financially in the event of a divorce. Massey becomes Bonnie's lawyer, assuring her he will win the divorce case and leave Donovan with nothing. During a trial hearing, Massey confides to his associate, Wrigley, that he is in the throes of a mid-life crisis, and is feeling bored with life. He compares himself with Attila the Hun, Ivan the Terrible, and Henry the VIII, all of whom destroyed all their opponents. Miles has done everything, seen everything, bought everything; he is seeking the ultimate challenge.

    Meanwhile, Rex Rexroth is having a sexual role-play session with a blonde temptress in a cheap motel when private investigator Gus Petch bursts into the room with a video camera and records everything. He brings the video to Rex's wife, Marylin, who remains very calm and reveals that the video is her ticket to wealth and independence. While Rex tries to talk to Marylin, she sends her Rottweilers to chase him off their property. Rex seeks counsel from Miles Massey, who assures him that, despite the video, he will win the divorce case. Marylin consults with her girlfriends, fellow wealthy serial divorcées, including Sarah Sorkin, who warns Marylin to beware of Miles Massey.

    After Marylin and her lawyer, Freddy Bender (), fail to reach an agreement with Miles, Rex, and Wrigley on a divorce settlement, Miles asks Marylin to dinner, where he decides that she is the challenge he's been looking for, and hires Gus Petch to take pictures of her diary. Later, in divorce court, Miles exposes Marylin's calculating life by presenting a witness named Baron Von Espy (), who testifies that she asked him several years ago to find her a rich husband who could be easily manipulated. Having wound up with nothing from the divorce, Marylin swears revenge on Miles and contacts Donovan Donaly, now living on the street, to help her; while meanwhile Miles's boss, Herb Myerson (), congratulates and praises him lavishly for his fine work.

    Soon after, Marylin shows up at Miles's office with her new fiancé, oil millionaire Howard D. Doyle (). She signs the Massey Pre-Nup and invites Miles to their wedding. During the ceremony, Howard rips up the pre-nup and eats it in a flamboyant demonstration of his love. But not long after the wedding, Marylin divorces Howard and takes most of his money, making her very rich.

    Months pass. Marylin bumps into Miles at a convention of divorce attorneys in Las Vegas. They discover that they're both lonely despite their wealth; she also reveals that her best friend, Sarah Sorkin, has died of an aggravated ulcer. Miles is besotted with Marylin and marries her on the spur of the moment. Happy and content in their new marriage, they presumably need no pre-nup. Miles has become a changed man and decides to abandon divorce suits in favor of pro-bono work in East Los Angeles. However, while celebrating this decision, he discovers that Howard D. Doyle is in fact an actor from one of Donaly's soap operas, and not really an oil millionaire. It turns out that Marylin has no money of her own, and even her friend Sarah Sorkin is still alive: Marylin has thoroughly tricked Miles and now his wealth is exposed to Marilyn's asset stripping.

    Miles' boss is most displeased with this turn of events and demands that something be done about it as Marylin has humiliated their law firm. The boss hires hitman Wheezy Joe to kill Marylin, but before the plan is completed, Miles learns that Marylin's ex-husband Rex Rexroth has died of a heart attack, leaving millions to Marylin. As Miles now stands to benefit from a divorce, he attempts to stop the assassination, with tragically comic results. In the end, Miles and Marylin meet at a divorce attorney's office to hammer out a deal. Miles is still in love with Marylin and shows his trust in her by retroactively signing a pre-nup, which Marylin destroys, and they kiss and reconcile. Marylin tells Miles that she suggested to Donovan Donaly a TV show about divorce à la America's Funniest Videos starring Gus Petch. The show is a success, and everyone lives happily ever after.

    (Adapted from Wikipedia)

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