|Intolerable Cruelty (2003)
Starring: George Clooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Geoffrey Rush, Cedric the Entertainer, Billy Bob Thornton
Director: Joel & Ethan Coen
While the Coen brothers' newest film "Intolerable Cruelty" is a step back from their typical banter, this throwback to the old oddball comedies of the 1940s still exhibits a bit of the same Coen charm. By incorporating their own unique methods into the mainstream Hollywood formula, these sibling directors also prove that no genre is taboo for them.
Miles Massey (George Clooney) is the supreme divorce lawyer in town, the creator of a self-named iron-clad prenuptial who can cripple the other party whenever he's involved. Enter Marilyn Rexroth (Catherine Zeta-Jones), an ambitious gold digger who plans to make a living by marrying and divorcing rich businessmen. After coming up short in her first court appearance against Miles, Marilyn ventures into a new marriage with rich oil man Howard Doyle (Billy Bob Thorton). And while Miles seeks out her true intentions, he and Marilyn predictably fall in love.
"Intolerable Cruelty" is a Coen film that doesn't especially feel like a Coen film, trimming its typically edgy and bizarre nature in order to appeal to a larger target audience. That doesn't mean that the laughs aren't there, because there are plenty of them, but fans of the brothers' earlier films may nonetheless feel a little betrayed.
Clooney gives another brilliant and whimsical comedic performance as Miles, a man in love with two things: his white teeth and his undeniable desire to win big. Zeta-Jones, unfortunately, brings nothing all that remarkable to her usual rich bitch role but the Coens have always been about the little things, and it's their secondary characters that here that mke "Intolerable Cruelty" somewhat enjoyable, including Paul Adelstein as Miles' assistant Wrigley; Billy Bob Thorton in one of his best roles to date; and Edward Herrmann as the first divorced husband, Rex Rexroth, with an undeniable attraction to trains.
While this movie may scream "sell out" to those hardcore Coen fans out there, the overall product isn't so bad. You'll find plenty of laughs scattered throughout, but in the end this probably won't make a lasting impression on you. "Intolerable Cruelty" is exceptional in concept, but only so-so in delivery.