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Last Updated: Friday, 24 October, 2003, 15:33 GMT 16:33 UK
'Cruelty' is more than tolerable

by Caroline Westbrook
BBC News Online

Intolerable Cruelty
Catherine Zeta Jones plays a gold-digging divorcee in the film
George Clooney and Catherine Zeta Jones are romantic sparring partners in Intolerable Cruelty, the latest comedy from quirky filmmakers the Coen brothers.

With its A-list cast and big studio backing, Intolerable Cruelty might just be the most mainstream film the Coen Brothers have made yet.

For all its commercial leanings, it still boasts many of the siblings' offbeat trademarks, with its odd characters and snappy script.

Yet it is a gentler film, taking its cue from old-fashioned romantic comedies rather than from the violent film noir that seems to inspire much of their work.

It is, in short, that rare thing - a Coen Brothers movie you can take your granny to without fear of causing offence.


Clooney stars as hard-boiled divorce lawyer Miles Massey, who is not above using questionable methods to help his clients win big settlements.

But he meets his match in Marilyn Rexroth (Zeta Jones), the soon-to-be-ex wife of his newest client.

He quickly sizes her up as a gold-digger, but still cannot help falling for her charms - and soon it is his own financial stability that is at stake, to say nothing of his sanity.

Ultimately this is Clooney's film. As with O Brother, the Coens seem to bring out the best in him, and he is perfect as the weaselly Massey. And he is ably supported by the likes of Billy Bob Thornton and Geoffrey Rush in bit parts.

But as frothy and enjoyable as it is, this is not up to the standard of other Coen brothers films.

Several parts - in particular an ending which feels false and belies all the nicely dark humour which goes before it - feel like the work of studio intervention rather than a pair of maverick filmmakers at the height of their powers.

That said, even a below-par Coen Brothers film is a good deal better than most mainstream Hollywood fare. And that alone makes it worth seeing.

The Coen Brothers is released in the UK on Friday.

So what did you think? Is it as good as their previous efforts? Or are they in danger of selling out?

Tell us what you think using the form below.

This film is every bit as good as any of the Coen brothers previous efforts, the fact that it is a little less quirky does not equal a lack of depth and intelligence. The Coen brothers and Clooney are entertainers and always have been. Sell out? They sold millions! A great, funny film.
Steve Dean, UK

Clooney was parodying Cary Grant way too much. He was out acted by Zeta Jones for once!! A good watch for a rainy sunday afternoon on TV enjoyable but not for the big screen.
Lynda Johnson, UK

I had free tickets to a preview of Intolerable Cruelty last weekend and I really only went because it was free and I was free. I am not a great fan of George Clooney or Catherine Zeta Jones and I have never been drawn to the Coen brother's other offerings.

That said then, this film was a pleasant surprise. It is stylishly done and very, very funny. The characters are all fascinatingly obnoxious, if slightly unbelievable, and there are really no dull moments, with the plot taking several unexpected twists. At one point the lawyer, played by Clooney, appears to be indulging in the sort of patronising, sentimental lecturing that often ruins American films; only for the whole situation to turn uproariously on its head a few moments later.

This is the first film in a long time that I can recommend to my friends AND my mother and be sure that they will all enjoy.
Rob Walpole, UK

Painful watching Catherine Zeta Jones ruin a potentially good script, impersonating a smug Persian cat.
Sarah Woolley, UK

Having been a huge Coen Brothers fan for years, I was really looking forward to this film. I knew that it was going to be mainstream, and it was pretty much as I expected from what I saw of the trailers.

Clooney is very good (probably the best I've ever seen him) and Zeta Jones does her job fine, but there's definitely something missing. It lacks the weirdness and quirkiness of all the other Coen bros films and is way too predictable in parts. It is funny, but not laugh-out-loud funny, as I had hoped.

Having said that, I still really enjoyed it, and is probably the best romantic comedy I've seen for a while (except for Punch-Drunk Love).
Chris, UK

Selling out ? If you mean the ending, maybe; but then what can one expect from a film made for US mass market. Otherwise hugely enjoyable. Very funny and the best Clooney so far.
Xtoph, D

Very funny, very entertaining. Great performances by all, except Zeta Jones. She's very gorgeous and all that, but dull as ditchwater in what could be a great role. Any number of other actresses would have played it far better than her.
Dave, UK

George CLooney proves again that he has a real flair for comedy. Another wonderfully repellent character. A welcome return to a Coen Bros. film after Oh Brother Where Art Thou. There is a nice relationship between GC and Catherine Zeta Jones and there is a slight question left in the air. Excellent perfomances too from Geoffrey Rush and Billy Bob Thornton. I don't often laugh out loud but I did this time.
Susan, UK

Two pretty people with no chemistry. Love George but would like to see him opposite someone more real. Good movie premise but it didn't wow me.
Kate, UK

What have they done to George? He looks awful. Can't stand CZJ. They should have cast someone else. The film is just okay. Someday, I'd love to see George Clooney and Sandra Bullock in a film together. I think there'd be some real chemistry there.
Fiona, UK

Okay, not classic Coen Bros ( whatever that is), but some of the sharpest dialogue you will hear in the cinema (probably anywhere for that matter) this week.

And don't let CZ-J put you off, and I speak as someone who can't stand the woman, she's not half bad in this.

A lot of fun if you're prepared to just accept it for what it is - entertainment, plain and simple.
Britsh film director, England

Once again the Brothers Coen are putting their distinctive stamp on a genre - in this case, the screwball rmantic comedy - and presenting us with a unique bag of twists. Enjoyable - but the performer who should be truly singled out for praise is Edward Heermann. The actor has matured into a wonderful character actor and he plays his role like an updated version of Ralph Bellamy.
Robert del Valle, USA

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