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FILM REVIEW: Intolerable Cruelty
Friday October 10, 2003 @ 06:30 PM
By: Staff

A Tolerable Romance

Release date: October 3, 2003
Director: Joel Coen
Starring: George Clooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones

Reviewed by: Chris Burland

The latest film from the brothers Coen (Joel directs while Ethan produces), Intolerable Cruelty is neither intolerable to watch nor cruel in its execution. Billed as a screwball romantic comedy, Intolerable Cruelty pits stars George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones in a verbal battle of love and hate.

Clooney — who really is the modern-day Cary Grant — plays Miles Massey, a celebrated divorce attorney with a fearsomely successful track record. Miles matches wits with Marilyn Rexroth (Zeta-Jones), a gold-digging wife who is after her buffoon of a philandering husband, Rex Rexroth (played by veteran actor, Edward Herrmann). Miles is completely taken by Marilyn and, after the conclusion of the divorce case, pursues her through a series of typical screwball antics and sidesplitting settings. With Clooney and Zeta-Jones perfectly cast in the leading romantic roles, the film is reminiscent of the fabulous screwball comedies of Howard Hawkes, Bringing Up Baby and His Girl Friday, as well as the romantic jousts of Hepburn and Tracy.

This is the first time that the Coens have collaborated on a script, yet there are many similarities in scope to previous Coen Brothers' comedies, Fargo and The Big Lebowski. The supporting roles are filled with imaginative and dynamic characters: the queenish Swiss concierge, Heinz, the Baron Krauss von Espy, Miles' emotional assistant Wrigley, the naive oil-rich suitor (Billy Bob Thornton) and Wheezy Joe, a wacky hit man. Also for along for the ride are private dick (Cedric The Entertainer) and cuckolded husband (Geoffrey Rush). The dialogue throughout the film is crisp and clear and delivered at a dizzying clip. The sets are visually stunning and the storyline is filled with enough twists and turns to satisfy the most cynical of latent romantics.

Ultimately, this film revolves around the charm and chemistry of the two leading actors. Zeta-Jones plays the innocent/manipulation card throughout the film taking the audience and Clooney along for a manic ride. Clooney's performance is Oscar-worthy — that is if the Academy actually recognized the difficulty in developing well-rounded comic performances.

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