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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2003
There is a point in Intolerable Cruelty where George Clooney is giving a key note speech professing his love that is long enough to make you suspect the Coen brothers have "sold out" into schmaltz. Wrong! The film, in typical Coen style, dives into as many twists and turns as is needed in a good thriller. Fortunately, the film is a comedic farce.
Clooney plays Miles Massey, the most prominent divorce lawyer in southern California. A man so good at what he does he has a prenuptial contract named after him. Massey's good and he knows it. Near the beginning of the film, he and his assistant, Wrigley (Paul Adelstein), are chatting about how boring Massey's life has become while a sweating client sits between them as the client's wife describes how she was used as a sex slave. Massey is that confident of himself.
And confidence is what Clooney is all about. He is simply incredible. Swaggering around like a peacock while checking to make sure his teeth are clean, Clooney gives his best performance. There is no denying his charm here. Even when he's being a prig.
Enter Marylin Rexroth (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a woman who's only goal is to marry a rich man, catch him in some indiscretion and divorce him for half of what he's worth. She wants to be independent she claims. Massey falls for her completely. She is his match in game-playing and confidence and he must have her.
Thus sets up the Coens' romantic comedy farce. It's bizarre at times, but humorous throughout as one coincidental incident sets-up another and turns all the characters on both of their ears. This is probably their fluffiest piece ever, but highly entertaining nonetheless.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on February 23, 2004
Intolerable Cruelty has to be the funniest film I've seen all year! Fans of the Coen Brothers will instantly love this fast paced, witty and surreal piece of cinematic genius, brilliantly directed, fantastically scripted and incredibly intelligent. While the idea of Clooney and Zeta-Jones fogging up the screen in a romantic comedy turned me off so much that I missed this in the cinema, now I've seen it I can't believe I had so little faith in Joel and Ethan. The Coen's didn't write the story, so this is sadly no Big Lebowski or Fargo, and some of the characters are a tad unsubtle (Cedric the Entertainer's private dick, the half-dead head lawyer and Clooney's sidekick come to mind) but they did have a hand in the screenplay, and therefore the dialogue sparkles with the typical Coen shine. I think the best scene for this is during Zeta-Jones' first divorce, as Clooney, his sidekick and this Client, in strained whispers, discuss their experience with the Judge ("Have you sat before this Judge before?","No, the Judge sits first..."). The cockpit scenes in Airport spring to mind...
The plot wriggles and squirms, involves and discards without ever falling into the trap of becoming too slow, sentimental or boring and various recurring jokes and camera shots from other Coen brothers movies will keep the viewer entertained even after the6th or 7th run through. The only thing that becomes stale is Zeta-Jones' lack of acting ability, but she's so drop-dead gorgeous that it doesn't really matter.
Definitely one to buy, treasure and make sure your friends see!
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66 of 88 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 2003
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 8, 2003
I saw a test screening of "Intolerable Cruelty" last Spring and am impatiently awaiting the opportunity to see it again. For many years I've been a devotee of the Coen brothers' work and this is a welcome addition to their filmography. "Intolerable Cruelty" has elements which remind me of many of their previous films. This despite the fact that "Intolerable Cruelty" is the first production for which they did not write the screenplay. I don't blame them for this, its a fantastic script. The dialogue immediately struck me as having the extra wit, style, and layeres of subtlety common to Big Lebowski, and O Brother Where Art Thou?
The Los Angeles setting and eclectic characters is reminiscent of Lebowski. However, Clooney's character, a prominent divorce attorney spews gab like Ulysses Everitt McGill, only with better credentials. Intolerable Cruelty, despite its title, is also much lighter than anything else by the Coens- except perhaps Hudsucker Proxy. Lighthearted even with much of the storyline devoted to social climbing wives and fidelity-impaired husbands.
The entire cast gives wonderful performances. Catherine Zeta-Jones has regained her title as sexiest woman in my world after her femme-fatale performance here. Clooney is perfect for his fast-talking part. Billy Bob, Geoffrey Rush, and Cedric the Entertainer all have memorable minor parts. Paul Adelstein is great as Clooney's understudy sidekick.
Intolerable Cruelty is not perhaps a troubling, deep cinematic masterpiece on the order of Miller's Crossing or Fargo. But it is a fantastic comedy with many instantly quotable lines ("You fascinate me") and subtely worth repeated viewings. With its big name cast this film is likely to once again return the Coen brothers to mainstream prominence. A most welcome prospect for such a strong film.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 20, 2003
With this film, a fourth volume has just been added to the "Best of the Coen Brothers," joining Raising Arizona, Hudsucker Proxy and Fargo.
IC skewers a most deserving set of subjects: divorce attorneys and the legal profession, gold diggers, and foolish rich old men. The Coen Brothers have produced a no holds barred comedy, and from start to finish their savage satirical wit finds it mark, producing one memorable scene and set of belly laughs after another.
George Clooney gives a fantastic performance as a top-notch Los Angeles divorce attorney, a role which allows him to show just how much acting goes into being a good attorney. Catherine Zeta-Jones doesn't have quite as meaty a part, but she gives an alluring performance. In the supporting roles, Billy Bob Thornton gets to dust off his Texas accent, and creates a credible happy-go-lucky Texas oilman. But the best supporting role is that of the senior partner of Clooney's law firm, an octogenarian representative of the legal profession who has long ago lost all traces of his humanity and soul.
The dialogue is finely honed, with barbs minor and major liberally sprinkled throughout. The plot is intricate and requires some thought to follow, as well as the suspension of a minor amount of disbelief, but it all makes sense within the logic of the film. Underneath it all, the Coen Brothers communicate a message about the interplay of love and money, and independence versus interdependence. Unlike so many other comedies which are aimed at a teenage demographic, IC is a comedy that adults will relish.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 2003
Any film by brother team Joel and Ethan Coen is going to be eagerly awaited, and possibly hurt by the rabid expectations of their legions of fans, of which I am a member. Their highest profile, most mainstream movie to date, Intolerable Cruelty was bound to test the loyalty of these fans as they take yet another step away from their avant garde (in case you've forgotten, these are the guys who did the classic Big Lebowski) comedy roots and into the mainstream. if the pre-film buzz wasn't evidence enough of this, Intolerable cruelty's writing and producing credits have the contributions of 2 other individuals. One of them is Matt Stone, one of the South Park guys. I admire the South Park Phenomenon but did not enjoy the film or the guys' other movie Orgazmo (before they made it big, Parker and Stone made Cannibal The Musical! a very funny movie, and better than their later projects.)
Intolerable Cruelty is still a Coen movie, first and foremost, and a long way from any of the other film's I've just mentioned, including the Coens' own films. George Clooney, one of the most watchable actors in Hollywood, does legal and amorous battles with the lovely Catherine Zeta-Jones in this Coen-style romantic comedy. I won't bother much with the plot, since where the film really shines is in its usual array of offbeat characters and general zaniness. Clooney essentially reprises his fast-talking swindler role O brother Where Art Though, but this time as a divorce attorney. His antics are supported well by the comedy performances of characters such as Wheezy Joe the assassin and Bernie Mac as the less-than-subtle private eye.
Like most Coen movies, this one takes some getting used to. I recall my rather underwhelmed and unimpressed reaction to my first viewing of the Big Lebowski which has since become the sure-fire anecdote to a day of grouchiness. There are a few big gag laughs, but the Coens primary strategy seems to be to just keep the chuckles coming. As true romance, the film doesn't really work, and its hard to care for any of these characters when there are so slimy, but if anyone can pull off a film with unlikable protagonists, its the Coens. Coen fans should give this one more a chance before deploring it as the inevitable Hollywood-ization of their revered filmmaking team, and it should be a wonderful introduction into the zany Coen world for mainstream audiences.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on October 14, 2003
"Intolerable Cruelty" might be the first Coen Brothers film uncomfortable its own skin. Oh, it has the usual collection of inspired sequences mixed with an equal portion of needless ones - which could be said any Joel and Ethan C film not named "Fargo." What's surprising is how many styles the film tries - straight romance, black comedy, full-blown madcap - without finding one that suits it. George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones both look great, and they certainly look like they'd be great together in something. But not this movie.
Clooney is Miles Massey, an iceman divorce attorney that turns sure losers inside out by - well let's say his skill is more or less assumed and undefined. Zeta-Jones, with a movie star look that makes most Hollywood glamour girls look like coquettes, is gold digger Marilyn Rexroth, whose second husband (Edward Herrmann) is caught in a hotel room (literally) doing the choo-choo dance with his mistress by video camera-toting PI (Cedric The Entertainer, drilling his one funny note into the Earth).
It's a worthy case for Miles, who's grown tired of making deals. Then he sees Marilyn slink into the negotiating room, and, in the one thing we can believe about "Intolerable Cruelty," falls hard for her. Miles and Marilyn will duel once, then twice, then a third and a fourth time in a movie that quietly aspires to the cruel, violent theatrics of "The War of the Roses" without taking the same mean risks. Unlike that wicked Danny DeVito film, which freely peddled to its audience a lusty hatred for the characters, the Coens feel the need to straddle us. The remainder of the film is filled with their quirky bit characters (the hitman and the "senior partner" are pretty hilarious) and what passes for chemistry between the leads.
Zeta-Jones is luminous. But her bored, distracted performance is nearly an insult for a plot that requires a certain amount of pep - her level, composed gaze is fetching for about half the movie, but then we'd like her to have a pulse. Clooney plays the ham as if to do the work for both of them, gawking and mugging and flopping around like a fool. Coupled with performances in "Solaris" and "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," Clooney almost seems to trying to work against his movie star looks and delivery. The bright spot is Billy Bob Thornton in a cameo as one of Marilyn's husbands, a petroleum heir that used to play a little tight end at Texas A&M. His presence is short-lived.
The Coens usually deliver a dash of visual flair; that's missing in "Intolerable Cruelty," unless Zeta-Jones counts as scenery. So is their nose for consistent, flashy verbal gymnastics, as at least three long bits - an opening sequence with Geoffrey Rush as a TV producer, a ridiculous "Who's On First?" riff in the courtroom, and a speech delivered by Miles at a Las Vegas seminar - whiff entirely. And Clooney nerdy sidekick, played by Paul Adelstein, could be the most poorly conceived character the brothers have ever created.
Much was made of the Coens' partnership with producer Brian Grazer on this film in an effort, like Woody Allen with Dreamworks, to make a "commercial" - read: moneymaking - picture. Outside of "O Brother, Where Art Thou," which had a cultlike following because of its bluegrass soundtrack, none of the Coen films - not even "Fargo," now widely considered one of the best films ever made, - hit the bank in their first runs. "Intolerable Cruelty" is no more mainstream, really - in some ways, it's the antithesis of what audiences crave - it just has a better marketing campaign. If the final gross helps finance another great Coen film, so be it; otherwise, it's a shiny suit the brothers didn't need.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on February 28, 2004
As a Coen Brothers movie (O Brother, Where Art Thou?), this is a 3-star movie but among all movies, it's a 4.
There is a lot that happens beneath the average movie watcher's radar here (not a slam of movie watchers, I wish I were less critical of movies I watch and I wish I could just sit back and enjoy them). The movie is very good and is VERY Coen Brothers.
If you're expecting a War of Roses movie, you'll like this better than you expect. If you're expecting a ha-ha funny movie, you'll be disappointed.
The best part of the movie is watching the characters par, dance, jab, avoid, and complement each other throughout the scenes.
Clooney is fun and he goes from slimeball lawyer to a likeable guy. Any movie that can do THAT is masterful! (Obviously this would never happen in read life!)
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25 of 34 people found the following review helpful
This film seemed to be a modern version of the romantic comedies of the 50's & 60's. it was overloaded with dialogue, some sight gags, & a few well-timed sexual references provided the laughs. George Clooney plays divorce lawyer Miles Massey who is at a crossroads in his life. Catherine Zeta Jones plays Marilyn Rexroth who is divorcing her cheating husband. The latter appears immune to the formers charms. But soon, the predictable path to the films conclusion is clearly in sight. The courtromm scenes dragged & CZJ & GC simply lacked the sexual sparks that would have made this a four star film. I give it three stars because, the supporting cast of Julia Duffy, Billy Bob Thornton, & Cedric the entertainer provided the laughs. Perhaps, Anjelina Jolie & Brad Pitt would have pulled it off?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 11, 2003
The Coen brothers won me over with the hilarious "O Brother Where Art Thou," so when I saw this film about to be released, I was, shall we say, excited. Add to the mix the always wonderful George Clooney and the marvelous Catherine Zeta-Jones, and you get what promises to be a great ride.
"Intolerable Cruelty" does not disappoint. I came in with high expectations for this film, and I was more than happy with the result. The acting is great. The script is great. The directing is great. It's just a fun, heartwarming movie.
"IC" is filmed with the same muted hues as "O Brother," and the humor is in the same vein, but a little bit more accessible. If you liked "Brother," you'll love this. If you didn't, there's still a chance you'll like it.
Clooney does a great job in his role as Miles; I think he continues to grow as an actor. After the moody "Solaris," it was nice to see him as a romantic, humorous lead. Zeta-Jones, recently of "Chicago" fame, is, if I may quote Clooney's character, "fascinating."
Great job all around to this cast and crew, marvelous film!!
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