October 17, 2003

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Thursday, October 16, 2003

NOW PLAYING: Cupid's arrow skewers romantic comedy in `Intolerable Cruelty'

By Rick Eskil of the Union-Bulletin

Intolerable Cruelty is a joy to watch.

The Coen Brothers - the warped minds who brought us Fargo and O Brother, Where Art Thou? - are taking a stab at romantic comedy. They got it - right through the heart.

Joel and Ethan Coen use ironic humor and dead-pan deliveries (and a little bit of slapstick) to send up the romantic-comedy genre.

At one point, for example, divorce attorney Miles Massey (George Clooney), while trying to make the point that compromise isn't the answer, asks, ``What do Attila the Hun, Ivan the Terrible and Henry the Eighth have in common?' The answer he gets from his straight-faced sidekick is - ta dum - ``their middle name.'

Sure, the jokes are sometimes corny, but in the hands of the Coens and a very talented cast most of them get laughs - although the banter is so quick you need to stay focused or a few clever lines may sail over your head.

The talented cast is led by Clooney. He has terrific comic timing and instincts. He can get a laugh with a well-timed twitch or a smile- and he does over and over.

Clooney's character is a divorce attorney extraordinaire. Miles is so successful that when his peers look at him they have that same look of adulation a kid gives a professional athlete. And Miles has that same look when he looks at himself in a mirror - or a spoon or anything else he can find that will reflect his image.

But is the master divorce lawyer a match for Marylin Rexroth (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a professional - and highly successful - gold digger?

Finding out is half the fun.

Miles, representing Marylin's philandering, older and extremely rich husband, is able to twist the truth and distort reality to the point where the wronged wife walks away from the marriage with nothing. Zip. Nada.

Yet, Marylin doesn't seem angry. Instead, she's intent on finding her next rich soon-to-be-ex-husband. And she decides to involve Miles in her scheme.

But Miles now wants to have more than a business relationship with Marylin. He's in love.

And love can be funny, at least in this movie. So, too, is just about everything else involving Miles, Marylin and the people they leave in their wake.

Zeta-Jones, an Oscar winner for her fantastic performance in Chicago, also has a great feel for comedy. She and Cooney make a good team. The supporting cast is also solid - and funny.

One of the funniest performances is turned in by Cedric the Entertainer, who plays a private detective who specializes in getting the goods on cheating husbands.

Billy Bob Thonton does a nice job as Marylin's next victim, a filthy rich Texas oilman.

Intolerable Cruelty is a must-see movie for those with a quirky and/or dry sense of humor. And if you are tired of the predictable romantic-comedy genre, you just might find the Coen Brother's interpretation refreshing.

Intolerable Cruelty, rated PG-13 for sexual content, language and brief violence, is now playing at the Grand Cinemas.


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