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Intolerable Cruelty (2003)

PG-13 100 minutes

Directed by Joel & Ethan Coen
Written by

 · George Clooney
 · Catherine Zeta-Jones
 · Geoffrey Rush
 · Cedric the Entertainer
 · Billy Bob Thornton

Review by Arcturus

George Clooney and Catherine Zeta Jones star in the latest Coen brothers comedy outing, Intolerable Cruelty, a comedy critique on the subject of gold-digging women, pre-nuptial agreements and ruthless lawyers.




The latest Coen brothers film unfortunately falls flat with me in several respects. This is a great shame as I have loved their witty, funny, dark films of the past, for example, Fargo, The Big Lebowski and O Brother Where Art Thou? First and foremost, the on-screen chemistry between Clooney and Catherine Zeta Jones simply does not work. Secondly, although this film has a few very funny moments it lacks the inventiveness and sheer creative brilliance of its predecessors. The conceit of the film is a great idea- that a ruthless, money-grabbing marital lawyer (Clooney) is shown the error of his ways by an even more ruthless and selfish character (Zeta-Jones). It attempts to critique the absurdity of current society's dealing with love and marriage, that people are more obsessed with pre-nuptial agreements, money-grabbing and gaining power, than actually marrying for true and honest love. The reason that the film falls down, is that the two main characters are dislikeable in all respects- this wouldn't be a problem if they were interesting and unique characters, but to put it simply they are rather boring. There are various admirable supporting cameos by the likes of Billy Bob Thornton and Geoffrey Rush (in the opening sequence) but these characters still add little extra dimension to the film. To put it simply- the film has a great conceit, and lots of potential, but it fails to deliver artistically. The script is slightly laboured, and for the most part unfunny. The film is fairly well paced, and has admirable direction and cinematography- the film for the most part delivers on what it promises, giving the audience a straight forward, utilitarian, screwball comedy, but does so with little panache or creativity.




The film is fairly entertaining, and gives certain moments of great comedy. Most of the jokes aren't "laugh out loud" funny, but are fairly witty and clever. The film seems to want to hearken back to the days of comedy screwball films that starred Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant but it simply doesnt work. Zeta Jones and Clooney share none of the sexual tension or chemistry that Hepburn and Grant worked off, and Clooney seems to be merely doing a bad impression of Cary Grant for most of the film.



In summary, Intolerable Cruelty, whilst being a competent and fairly entertaining film, shares none of the excitement and dark, black humour of the Coen Brothers' other major films. It feels lacklustre in several respects, and whilst containing a few very funny moments, as a whole is simply not funny enough. A fairly dissapointing and mainstream addition from the otherwise dark and unique Coen Brothers'.

470 Words Published: 24 January 2004

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