Intolerable Cruelty (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner16/10/2003

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 90 mins

Enjoyable screwball comedy that will please some but is a slight disappointment, given the high standards set by the Coen’s previous movies.

Intolerable Cruelty is a Coen Brothers movie with a difference, in that they didn’t originate the idea and only co-wrote the screenplay. As such, die-hard fans can relax in that it still bears their distinctive stamp, but it lacks the overall cohesion of their other films. That said, it’s still very enjoyable and delivers a palpable, well-overdue slap to the romantic comedy genre.

Super Slick Lawyer

George Clooney plays L.A. divorce lawyer Miles Massey, a man so successful, he even has an iron-clad contract – the ‘Massey Pre-Nup’ - named after him (“Only love is in mind when the Massey is signed”). Bored and looking for new challenges, Miles accepts the seemingly unwinnable Rexroth case, during which he is captivated by the gold-digging Marilyn Rexroth (Catherine Zeta-Jones). However, when Miles trounces her in court, Marilyn schemes to get even…

Clooney is superb, delivering a similar comic performance to his role as Everett McGill in O Brother Where Art Thou? The press notes indicate that this was deliberate – Clooney decided Massey was a descendant of McGill, hence McGill’s hair obsession (“I’m a Dapper Dan man!”) becomes Massey’s teeth obsession. Zeta-Jones, as well as looking drop-dead gorgeous throughout, also reveals an unexpected gift for snappy patter, ensuring that this is one of her best performances, up there with her roles in The Mask of Zorro and Traffic.

The Coens are known for their excellent supporting casts and there’s good work here from reliable character actors such as Richard Jenkins and Cedric The Entertainer (as Gus Petch, the private investigator with his own catchphrase) to bigger stars such as Geoffrey Rush and Billy Bob Thornton (an extended cameo as Marilyn’s proposed husband-to-be).

Chemistry But No Love Evident

Intolerable Cruelty is probably most similar in tone to The Hudsucker Proxy, in that both films are essentially screwball comedies. They also share similar characters (sinister old men) and have the same fast-paced dialogue. The drawback here is that occasionally, the jokes feel a little rehashed.

The other main problem is that, although Clooney and Zeta-Jones make a good onscreen couple, we never see the characters really fall in love with each other so that, although the chemistry is there, the relationship doesn’t ring true. Similarly, towards the end, character plausibility is sacrificed in favour of the pay-off to an admittedly excellent joke.

That said, there’s an awful lot to like here, from off-the-wall scenes such as the tennis scene (Clooney talking while playing tennis against a machine; his colleague wearing a t-shirt that says “Objection!”) and the wedding chapel scene, to bizarre characters such as a train-obsessed millionaire and a hit-man named Wheezy Joe, as well as a script that throws up some classic lines, particularly a courtroom objection on the grounds of “poetry recitation” (over-ruled).

In short, Coen fans may feel a little disappointed, despite the fact that Intolerable Cruelty could well prove to be their biggest commercial success to date. Worth seeing, then, and more fun than the average Hollywood rom-com, but not as good as their other films.

Film Trailer

Intolerable Cruelty (12A)
Intolerable Cruelty has been reviewed by 1 users
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Content updated: 14/12/2018 23:29

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