Sunday, December 20, 2009

Movie Log: Intolerable Cruelty

The Coen brothers' comedies are intensely mannered movies -- I'd compare them to the Coen's dramas, but I realized that I've been avoiding their dramas for pretty much this entire decade (not the black-and-white one, certainly not the Cormac McCarthy adaptation that tried to bring back the pageboy for men), so I can't actually do that. This saddens me, since there was a time (about ten years ago), when I'd seen all of the Coens' movies, and really liked their weird, precise voice.

Well, anyway, I caught up with Intolerable Cruelty last week, mostly because I realized that George Clooney is an amazing leading man -- probably the best pure leading man we have today -- and that I hadn't seen nearly enough of him. Catherine Zeta-Jones is good in this movie as well, though she's given somewhat less to do.

Clooney is Miles Massey, a world-class LA divorce attorney. (His "Massey pre-nup" is legendarily ironclad and unbreakable.) He finds himself on the opposite end of a divorce case from Zeta-Jones's Marilyn, who is trying to get rid of a philandering (and train-obsessed) husband but retain as many of his assets as possible. Massey gets her cast out with nothing, but is intrigued by her -- and she vows revenge on him.

The movie goes on from there, constructing its own cartoonish parody of the legal system along the way. As with many comedies, the viewer has to realize the cartoon rules -- here, that a Massey pre-nup is utterly unbreakable once signed by the poor party unless it is destroyed by the rich party, and a few other rules, equally bright-line and clear and utterly unlike the real give-and-take world of litigation -- and accept them, to avoid questioning every plot twist of the movie.

There are the expected reverses and double-reverses, with a few lines of dialogue ("You're exposed! You're a sitting duck!") repeated several times, and a great time is had by all. It's not really a laugh-out-loud comedy -- the Coens' style doesn't run that way -- but it is very funny, deeply odd, and a lot of fun for nearly two hours.
Listening to: Basia Bulat - Little One
via FoxyTunes

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