Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.

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Intolerable Cruelty

Film #412

THE PLOT

A revenge-seeking gold digger marries a womanizing Beverly Hills lawyer with the intention of making a killing in the divorce.

Year 2, Film #47

THE REVIEW: The year is coming to a close next week and I thought I should try and squeeze a few more films in. The hardest part has always been deciding what to watch but the end of the year always presents an easier time than most because large swaths of films stop streaming from Netflix and Amazon. One such film that has been on my list for a while is the Coen brothers’ Intolerable Cruelty so I decided to give it a go and it’s a good thing I did because this is now one of my favorite films of theirs.

When it comes to the Coen brothers, I’ve seen almost all of their films (11 out of 15; 9 of which have been during this marathon) and my reactions have varied from very positive, to not-so-positive. They have a unique style that is present in all of their films and it’s typically their style that has me heaping praise on how entertaining a film was to watch, or how it was too bizarre and just left me puzzled at to what just happened and why that just happened. With Intolerable Cruelty the Coen style is present, although I’d argue to a lesser extent. It’s probably the most “traditional” film they’ve made in the sense of story and characters but I think they executed it very well and succeeded.

Intolerable Cruelty is a story about matrimonial lawyer Miles Massey (George Clooney) and a variety of his clients, one of whom is Rex Rexroth (Edward Herrmann). Rex’s wife Marilyn (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is seeking a divorce and more importantly for her, Rex’s money and other assets. Around the same time, Miles becomes interested in Marilyn and pursues her at risk of being de-barred. It’s a very interesting story about love and “love” and what people will do, or fake doing, in order to get what they want. This isn’t a traditional love story or court film or some masterminded plan. When I said this was one of the Coens’ most “traditional” films I meant that it isn’t very bizarre. The flow of the story from beginning to end, the characters, and the humor in the film are quite normal. There is no wacko John Goodman screaming “Over the line!” or Javier Bardem walking around shooting people with compressed air. Instead, there is Miles Massey who is just any old arrogant and successful lawyer and Marilyn is just a pretty, wealth-seeking, and power-hungry woman. It’s straightforward yet keeps you engaged throughout, filled with some unexpected twists and turns and general entertainment that will always amuse.

The few bizarre elements that do exist in the film are the few detractors, the biggest being the character of Herb Myerson (Tom Alderedge), one of the partners at the firm Miles works at. He is only seen and mentioned a handful of times throughout the film and all but one time is absolutely pointless. The only part of the story he really contributes to is suggesting to hire Wheezy Joe, a hitman, at the end of the film, something that could have been suggested by a number of other characters. But the character of Herb Myerson is unnecessary for another reason as well. While suggesting to hire the hitman is his only contribution to the film, he’s forced into the story as if he’s more important. There’s a whole subplot that’s introduced about living without intestines (George Carlin was right, there really is a magazine for every group of more than four people) and the decrepit, aging condition he’s in. It seems to bother Miles and influence his decision-making process, but it isn’t followed up on. The idea is introduced, and then left there mainly forgotten.

Overall, this was a very interesting, funny, and all-around enjoyable film to watch. The opening sequence with Geoffrey Rush playing TV producer Donovan Donaly was a great start to the film and Clooney and Zeta-Jones followed up with two well-played characters that kept the story moving in some predictable way, but some unexpected ways as well. The Coens’ style was faintly present and added to the originality of the story and characters but their fondness for some bizarre and peculiar aspects gave the film a definite detractor. That aside though, this was one of the Coens’ best executed and most entertaining films I’ve seen to date. Highly recommended to any fans of theirs or to anyone looking for a film filled with scheming and lawyers and scheming lawyers.

THE RATING: 4 out of 5