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"Intolerable Cruelty"

Directed by Joel Coen.
Written by Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Robert Ramsey and Matthew Stone.
Starring George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones. 
Release Year:  2003 
Review Date:  10/23/03 


Love the Coen Brothers, but I was baffled by this trailer because the Coen Brothers typically don’t do romantic comedies that are so straight-laced.  Of course, with Catherine Zeta-Jones looking THIS good, you make some exceptions in this life.

LA’s top divorce lawyer, Miles Massey (George Clooney), gets a stiff challenge one day while hangin’ out in his office.  Womanizing rich guy Rex Rexroth (Edward Herrmann) has just been caught on video leaving a hotel room with a hooker, but even though he looks guilty as sin, he wants Massey to bail him out...AND to find a way to keep his beautiful wife Marylin (Zeta-Jones) from getting a single penny in settlement.  Marylin seems to have designs on Rex’s money—and ONLY his money—so she hires counsel to try and take Massey down.

Now, I thought that this plot would take the whole film to work through, but in fact, all of this is settled and the case is completed in the film’s first 45 minutes.  So, what fills up the rest?  You’ll have to see, but for me, the movie died after that first case was settled.  There were other comic touches that fit the whacked-out Coen Brothers mold (a hilarious sequence featuring the firm’s “senior partner” Herb, who lives below the building and is the most successful lawyer in firm history), and the film is just beautiful to look at, with impressive cinematography by Roger Deakins (shot many of the Coen Brothers films, including “The Man Who Wasn’t There”).  But, the film’s last hour just didn’t click for me, as “Intolerable Cruelty” becomes a bit predictable and limps to an ending that is just plain bad.

I can’t fault the performers, all of whom show up to work in solid form.  Clooney’s run of great performances continues; although he overdoes it at times, his Massey is a beautiful mix of cocky suave, closet romantic and out-and-out bastard.  Zeta-Jones has never looked this good on film, period.  Her character’s confidence really does make you believe that she devours rich guys for dinner.  The support in the film is mostly impressive; Billy Bob Thornton, Herrmann, Paul Adelstein (as Massey’s assistant), and even Julia Duffy look like they are all having fun.  However, this is the first time I can say Cedric the Entertainer wasn’t at least a little funny in a film role.  As the cameraman that gets Rex on tape early in the film, he shows up in three more scenes and is bad in all of them; some of that is the script, I’m sure; some might be the fact that he looks like he is being directed more than he is used to.  More than most, Cedric looks like he loves doing improv in his scenes, and I can’t tell if the Coen Brothers gave him that kind of freedom.

Not the best work from the directors of “Fargo” and “Raising Arizona”, but it isn’t all bad.  Not bad for a run at the theater, but you can’t go wrong waiting four months for the DVD release.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09