Intolerable Cruelty

To be frank, I had my doubts. I know the Coen’s are cinematic genii of the highest degree, and I know they have a knack of turning terrible-sounding ideas into great films, but even the mighty can fall sometimes (exhibit A: Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes). I just couldn’t see how a romantic comedy with Catherine Zeta Jones could possibly be any good. The trailer didn’t look good. And the fact that Intolerable Cruelty was actually written by someone else before Joel and Ethan got their hands on it just sent up more warning flags. I was more than a little worried.

Anyway, Naomi got us some tickets for the preview screening tonight at the Filmworks tonight, so I got the chance to find out for myself.

I needn’t have worried. Whilst this is without doubt the most commercial and accessible film they’ve ever made, it is still Coen all the way through. The plot isn’t astounding, but it does the job, and more importantly, it provides a framework on which to hang that which Coen movies are really all about – the characters. George Clooney borrows heavily from his outing as Ulysses Everett McGill in O Brother, Where Art Thou? as the quick talking divorce lawyer Miles Massey, whilst Jones does a (surprisingly) good job as the gold-digging serial wife Marylin Rexroth, a character who one can’t help feeling might contain certain echoes of Ms. Jones’ offscreen image. Alongside this are the usual dazzling array of slightly off-the-wall supporting characters you’d expect from the brothers, including an asthmatic hitman, a ridiculously camp Baron and an old man with no intenstines.

This is a fast paced film – a fact borne out by the fact that it’s only a little over 90 minutes long – but this is an essential part of screwball comedy, and it’s a testament to the Coen’s excellent directing and editing that despite the pacing, it never feels rushed. The excellent timing of the dialogue and scene cuts mean that we’re never left feeling lost or confused, but equally well, we’re never left waiting for something to happen.

If you’re a fan of the Coen brothers, then you’ll know what to expect, and you won’t be disappointed here. Equally, if you’re after a good laugh and proof that romantic comedy doesn’t have to be cringingly awful and star Hugh Grant, then I can heartily recommend Intolerable Cruelty as a very enjoyable way to spend an evening.

One Response to “Intolerable Cruelty”

  1. Lori says:

    It was on my list anyway, but that stonking review has just made me want to see it even more. Don’t suggest that CZJ is a serial-wife though as she thinks divorce is horrid, don’tcha know. Or so I heard.