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'Intolerable Cruelty' wickedly funny



Ethan and Joel Coen's latest movie, "Intolerable Cruelty," is wickedly funny and offers a brilliant showcase for George Clooney's satirical talents.

The movie examines matrimonial law in the state where that practice field has become a world unto itself -California. Because it is set in the land of make believe, the movie starts out with a television producer interrupting his wife's tryst with a pool man. The problem is, the couple doesn't have a pool.

The quick thinking husband grabs a camera and takes photos as the wife and the interloper escape. So what's a wife to do when caught in such a delicate situation?

Well, hire Miles Massey, played expertly by Clooney, of course. Within minutes of hearing the wife's sad tale, Massey, who has won more than his fair share of big divorce cases, twists the facts around to suit her and promises he will win her the producer's soap opera.

The wife withdraws and Massey moves on to other cases, but this hot shot divorce attorney has a problem and it is his problem that makes him just vulnerable enough for the audience to love rather than hate him. Massey is bored with the compromises a good divorce attorney must reach every day and he is looking for something to sink his teeth into.

Along comes Catherine Zeta-Jones as good wife done wrong, Marylin Rexroth. The two meet when Marylin's husband, played wonderfully by Edward Hermann, decides his flagrant womanizing must go unpunished in their divorce. Despite video taped proof of his wandering eye, Rex wants to toss sweet Marylin out without a dime. The "no compromise will be accepted" attitude portrayed by his client gives Massey the challenge he has been seeking. The way he rises to the challenge sets up a string of one up's manship between Massey and Marylin that carries the movie to its conclusion. Along the way, however, the audience is treated to more than enough laughs to keep the whole thing interesting.

Myles is looking for love and Clooney's portrayal of him allows that sweetness to come through. That sweetness is then pounced upon by a senior partner the likes of which one would expect to find in a Dickens novel or a Shakespearean play. The laughs heaped on the legal profession alone are plenty of reason to see this movie.

Another reason is Clooney's monologue about what love is and how it is treated in a country where divorce is a big business.

While the movie does come across as a vehicle for Clooney, others add to the fun. Included in that group are Billy Bob Thorton, as the man Marylin announces she plans to marry, Geoffrey Rush, as the producer who catches his wife with the pool man, and Paul Adelstein as Massey's able assistant Wrigley.

The only character in the movie that doesn't add to the over-all performance is, sadly enough, Zeta-Jones. She does a great job of playing the wounded wife, but when it comes time for her to show the audience her true feelings for Massey, the Welsh born star falls short. In the end, its hard to tell if Marilyn's smile comes from a love that will last forever or the possibility of another big divorce settlement.

Zeta-Jones' performance is not the only problem with the movie. It was poorly edited in places and is a bit long. But those problems really are easily over looked by the time the whole thing is said and done. "Intolerable Cruelty" is uncommonly good comedy and worth the price of a movie ticket.

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