The Coen Brothers, Joel and Ethan, makers of such films as "Fargo," "Raising Arizona," "The Big Lebowski" and "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" have their ups and downs. Even die-hard Coen fans will note that as the brothers switch off between producing and directing duties, their films switch in style from uproariously funny to somber dark humor to riveting suspense. But in every Coen Brothers movie there was something of merit, something worth looking at if only once. The pair have never made a bomb.
"Intolerable Cruelty" is the first Coen Brothers movie to have very little of merit in it. The good news is that there are at least two things right about the title. This is the story of a divorced attorney, Miles Massey (played by George Clooney), who is the best at what he does and what he does is win no matter what.
When his client, Rex Rexroth, is caught red-handed with another woman on videotape, it looks as though he has a challenge on his hands defeating the wiley wife, Marilyn Rexroth, (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Clooney pulls a miracle out of his bag of tricks and proves the wife to have been a gold-digger all along.
She plots revenge, he falls in love with her, she may or may not fall in love with him and the "hilarity" ensues. Problem is that besides one or two recognizably Coenesque moments, most of this film is your standard, boring romantic comedy concept. It could have been the brainchild of anyone.
That's were John Romano, Robert Ramsey and Matthew Stone come in. They have story and screenplay credits on this film and, if my suspicions are correct, they have blackmail material on the Coens who could not have read this script and thought it a project that required their attention. The only option that makes any sense is mass appeal. This movie is a lowest common denominator piece of tripe with some big box office names.
Clooney is the only actor who seems to be in a Coen Brothers film. He is quirky and satirical, perplexed and conflicted, wondering if there is more to life than the legal challenges he faces.
Zeta-Jones is sexy, pretty and seductive in a very routine sort of way that makes it a little hard to see what the super appeal of her character is supposed to be. She's a shark with no redeeming qualities. Why would a savvy divorce attorney fall for any of her falderal.
Moments of dialogue are entertaining, but for the most part, this is a technically adequate film without much heart.