Sunday, January 18, 2009

Movie Log: Burn After Reading

I used to consider myself a big Coen Brothers fan, but -- since I've missed so many of their movies -- I guess I can't say that as definitively as I used to. But I did manage to catch up with Burn After Reading, because it was funny. (I missed No Country for Old Men in large part because it looked like a "worthy," serious, depressing film -- Burn looked like a movie.)

Burn Before Reading is a story of some dumb people -- primarily Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt) and Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand), two health-club employees -- and some not-as-smart-as-they-think-they-are people, starting with John Malkovich as CIA sigint (signals intelligence) analyst Osborne Cox, who has recently found himself without a job, and continuing on through his cold, domineering wife Katie (Tilda Swinton), her lover (Treasury agent Harry Pfarrer [George Clooney]) and various CIA and Russian Embassy personnel.

It's a convoluted plot, set in motion by Cox's angry resignation from the CIA in the opening minutes of the movie and by his wife's subsequent plans to divorce him. Somehow, a CD with parts of Cox's memoir-in-progress and some other information comes into the hands of Litzke and Feldheimer, who think it's valuable "secret CIA shit," and try to cash in on it -- mostly to pay for some extensive plastic surgeries Litzke wants.

Coincidentally, Litzke has, at the same time, met and started dating Pfarrer, one of those Clooney characters who uses his charm and good looks to fuck every woman he possibly can. (And, if you object to my use of the word "fuck," there, don't even consider seeing this movie.) Pfarrer is married to an author of books for children, who is a minor character but has her own secrets (though, sadly, not the one The Wife and I were hoping for).

Everything goes around and around for a while, with some memorable scenes and lines -- most of the latter involving at least a little cursing -- and no one comes out it of well at all. Acting almost as a Greek chorus are Cox's ex-boss at the CIA (David Rasche -- who, as I've just finally remembered, was the inimitable Sledge Hammer twenty years ago) and his boss (J.K. Simmons, who I'm assuming is playing the Director of Central Intelligence, because that amuses me), trying to figure out what's going on, why, and what if anything the CIA did to start it or should do to stop it.

Burn After Reading is a lightweight movie about a bunch of people in way over their heads -- the same story could have been played as tragedy, but, here, it's a farce. It's not a great movie, but I found it to be a lot of fun.


Anonymous said...

It is a farce with a lot of dead bodies, though, it should be pointed out. No Country for Old Men does have some funny moments, too.

Ray said...

No country for Old men _is_ a great movie, and you should watch it.

Becs said...

I suppose I don't get dark comedy or the Coen brothers (although they made Lebowski, I think?).

I just thought it was really, really sad, although I got a kick out of how much fun Brad Pitt was having in the role. He's the only one who seemed to be enjoying himself. Ignorance is bliss.

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