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FILM REVIEW: 'Intolerable Cruelty' hits, misses with gorgeous cast

By Charlotte Triggs

Daily Targum (Rutgers U.)


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(U-WIRE) NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. -- The Coen brothers sure seem to like alliteration. The first divorce of their film "Intolerable Cruelty" comes when Donovan Donaly discovers his wife in bed with Ollie Olerud. Marilyn (Catherine Zeta-Jones) tries to make a profit from her divorce from Rex Rexroth, but ends up living with Sarah Sorkin, a model for divorce settlement. And of course, the lawyer that links them all is Miles Massey (George Clooney), the man you want to know if you are counting on that big settlement. Aside from just having silly names, they also happen to be silly people. The women divorce in order to become "independent," and the offending party always seems to prosper. Such is the case for Marilyn. After her private investigator shoots video of her husband playing "choo choo train" with another woman, she thinks she can "nail his ass," until he hires Miles, who wins the case in his favor.

But things get complicated for the characters of this farcical satire. All the while Miles is in love with Marilyn, and all the while Marilyn flirts with Miles. And despite everything they know about each other, for whatever reason, they decide that they need to get married ... in Las Vegas ... in a Scottish ceremony ... in kilts. Things seem to have changed -- he renounces his Presidency of N.O.M.A.N. (the National Organization of Matrimonial Attorneys Nationwide) because he discovers that he actually does love Marilyn and is tired of only fighting for divorce. And later, she feels bad for dumping him, after she is assured that their prenup was destroyed, of course.

Ah, the prenup. What every gold digging whore must fear. 'Ew! You might actually be expected to marry someone for love? You can't profit from the divorce?' This mentality plays a big part in the movie. The impenetrable "Massey prenup" is supposed to protect the richer party without allowing anyone to profit from the divorce. But these prenups are constantly being ripped up during negotiations, ripped up during sex, even eaten with barbecue sauce during a wedding -- all to show the absolute trust in the other person -- who promptly screws them over and takes all their money.

For a romantic comedy this movie is surprisingly dark. Hiring hit men, setting the dogs on people and croaking during a train-themed orgy are all commonplace. And of course let's not forget ruining peoples' lives in divorce. The film is filled with bizarre images: Ancient lawyers hooked up to life support machines, rooms filled with "matrimonial attorneys," poodle attacks in dark Las Vegas elevators, but this is to be expected -- "Intolerable Cruelty" is full of these little moments, which remind us why the Coen brothers are so successful. After "Raising Arizona," "Fargo" and "O Brother, Where Art Thou?," the oddities of this film seem to be witty and ingenious. Had it not been for these touches, the movie would have gone from being intolerably cruel to intolerably boring.

People magazine readers everywhere will rejoice at seeing "Intolerable Cruelty," which pairs two of its "most beautiful people" in a feast of eye candy. The gorgeous George Clooney matches perfectly with the equally gorgeous Catherine Zeta-Jones, who is delightfully evil as the gold digger we are supposed to like. Despite the corny conventions of the film, the two play their roles as beautiful rich people with ease, but they've probably had a lot of practice.

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