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 Sunday  Nov. 02, 2003
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ENTERTAINMENT

Coen brothers flop in intolerable movie
Chelsea Sime
Staff Writer
October 29, 2003

Some weekends at the movie theater are so packed with promising new releases that it's hard to decide what to spend your $7.25 on.

But then there are weeks like this one - when you have to choose between bad and worse.

In an effort to avoid seeing "Scary Movie 3" at all costs, this disappointed reviewer decided to settle on Oct. 10's "Intolerable Cruelty."

Now, the trailers leading up to this film portray it as a witty romantic comedy, but it's not.

And because it's written and produced by the famous Joel and Ethan Coen ("Fargo" and "The Big Lebowski"), one would think that it's an introspective comedy with great dialogue and character development. But it's certainly not that either.

In fact, "Intolerable Cruelty" isn't really anything like you expected - or wanted, for that matter.

The disappointment comes not from what the movie is, but from what the movie could have been had the producers given the directors all the right ingredients.

As far as the plot goes, it's all pretty simple.

Miles Massey (George Clooney) is a top-notch divorce lawyer who has crafted the ultimate prenuptial agreement that has never been broken.

He meets Marylin Rexroth (Catherine Zeta-Jones) while he is representing her husband, a millionaire with a wandering eye.

Massey falls for Rexroth partly because of her timeless beauty, but mostly because he is amazed by her technique.

Rexroth marries men only for their money and then tricks them into thinking she really does care so that they don't sign the prenup. She ends up rich, they end up in the gutter.

So, of course the movie is designed so that everyone rallies around Massey, even though he's no moralist either. The audience will want him to succeed in taming the shrew, and want her to actually love someone.

But the way the plot unfolds leaves much to be desired.

Zeta-Jones as Rexroth is only as great as the Coen Brothers allow her to be.

She's good in the part - and it's definitely easy to see why all these men go ga-ga over her - but the part itself is shallow and only marginally witty.

Clooney falls into the same trap. Here's a great actor, as proven in another Coen film "O Brother, Where Art Thou?," But Clooney loses out because of a weak script and a slow moving plot.

The directing, by Joel Coen, is pretty good, and the way the camera goes in for those really close-ups adds a lot.

But it doesn't make up for the fact that you don't really know what you're looking at.

Who are these people? What makes them tick?

The Coen Brothers are notorious for answering these questions, and their films are some of the greatest dark comedies ever made.

Well, you win some and you lose some. "Intolerable Cruelty" has its moments for sure, but don't expect it to be what you thought.

Chelsea Sime can be reached at csime@orion-online.net

Coen brothers flop in intolerable movie
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