Intolerable Cruelty
4 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Intolerable Cruelty The Coen Brothers go surprisingly mainstream with this romantic comedy set among the movers and shakers in Beverly Hills. Fortunately the film is full of their usual black humour and quirky characterisations. It's also one of the most original and funniest rom-coms in recent memory. Miles Massey (Clooney) is such a powerhouse divorce lawyer that he has an ironclad pre-nup named after him. Seemingly able to win a case no matter what side he's on, he finally meets his match in Marylin (Zeta-Jones), who instantly earns his respect with her shark-like gold-digging ways. When Marylin and her lawyer (Jenkins) bear the indignities of his skills in her divorce trial, she quietly vows revenge, marrying an oil tycoon (Thornton) to make her fortune before going after the love-struck Miles.

Harking back to the sharply written screwball comedies of the 1940s, the dialog snaps and crackles with life, burying hilarious jokes in almost every line and keeping the cast on their toes. Performances have to walk a dangerous tightrope between broad goofiness and shrewd farce, and there are a couple of rather wobbly moments, but on the whole it's dead on target. Clooney is terrific as the man without a conscience who's suddenly smitten, and Zeta-Jones holds her own in a glamorous but intriguingly thankless role. But it's the side characters that really spark, especially one-scene wonders like Hadary's insanely camp Baron Krauss von Espy and Keyes' dopey-wheezy hitman. Rush and Herrmann score in small parts as burned husbands, while Adelstein pokes fun at soppy sentiment as Miles' sucker-for-romance assistant. Cedric's hysterically obnoxious private eye gets the film's best running gag. And there are a lot of them. The story itself is remarkably fresh, avoiding the standard Hollywood rom-com mould; it actually feels original for a change, barrelling through the story to an ending we could predict if we took even a second to worry about it. This is a loud, colourful, amorous, slightly over-the-top comedy that keeps us laughing from start to finish. And for a couple of hours afterwards as well.

cert 12tbc themes, language, some violence 24.Sep.03

dir Joel Coen
scr Robert Ramsey, Matthew Stone, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
with George Clooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Jenkins, Paul Adelstein, Cedric the Entertainer, Billy Bob Thornton, Geoffrey Rush, Julia Duffy, Edward Herrmann, Jonathan Hadary, Irwin Keyes, Jack Kyle
release US 10.Oct.03; UK 24.Oct.03
03/US 1h40

I'll get you my pretty: Clooney and Zeta-Jones

cedic thornton rush
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R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Laurie T, Minneapolis: "Clooney and Zeta-Jones were interviewed on TV, and it was revealed that Clooney was allowed to paint Catherine's toenails, a task usually reserved for professionals. My husband I said it was easy to see that the cast obviously had as much fun making this movie as we did watching it - at one point I was laughing so hard I was nearly crying. An awesome movie - go see it!" (11.Oct.03)

Intolerable Cruelty Dave Haviland, London: 3 out of 5 stars "This film is achingly close to being some kind of classic. Catherine Zeta Jones is jaw-droppingly sexy, and she and George Clooney ought to make a perfect screen couple. The script is extremely witty in places, and for the first two thirds the plot manages to seem both surprising and inevitable. The film has a unique and apt visual style, as you would expect from the Coen brothers. So why does it feel like such a disappointment? The problem is that the filmmakers seem contemptuous of the genre they’re working in. The script contains the blueprint for a classic screwball comedy, with romance, quick-fire dialogue and plot twists. However each time we start to engage with the characters, the Coens seem to take a step back and amuse themselves by highlighting the silliness of the conceit. In this film, where we desperately want to suspend disbelief and root for our stars, we leave the cinema feeling slightly cheated." (30.Dec.03)

© 2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall