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Tuesday, October 14, 2003


Game of love played for high stakes in 'Intolerable Cruelty'

By JAMES D. ELLISON
News Tribune

Intolerable Cruelty. Starring George Clooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Edward Herrmann, Cedric the Entertainer and Billy Bob Thornton. Directed by Joel Coen. Rated Pg-13.

You'd never expect the Coen Brothers to make a romantic comedy. With "Intolerable Cruelty," they've made one, but with their own dark spin.

High-powered divorce attorney Miles Massey (George Clooney) protects the fortune of his client Rex Rexroth (Edward Herrmann), but in the process he falls for Mrs. Rexroth (Catherine Zeta-Jones).

This is bad news, especially when she shows up later with a new fiancé (Billy Bob Thornton).

Massey sees marriage as a financial arrangement, so he's not sure how to react when he actually falls in love. How can he win her heart? And, just as important, who gets the money?

This is a breezy, quirky movie. Joel and Ethan Coen (and co-writers Robert Ramsey and Matthew Stone) know better than to take any of this seriously, so they've packed the film with curious characters and odd bits of business. Most succeed; a few fall flat.

But at the heart is the chemistry between Clooney and Zeta-Jones.

They size each other up as worthy adversaries -- think Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell.

The film succeeds because we root for them, even though they're on opposite sides.

Thornton is a hoot as an oil millionaire, while Cedric the Entertainer shines as a private detective.

This isn't as monumental as some of the Coens' other work ( "Fargo," "The Man Who Wasn't There"), but it's a clever exercise in style.

Just remember: The game of love is played for high stakes.



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