Intolerable Cruelty

Intolerable Cruelty

***

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

George Clooney is not unlike Mel Gibson, in the sense that he's better at comedy than stiff upper lippery. It started with Three Kings and went on to the Coen Brothers' O Brother, Where Art Thou? Don't talk about Batman & Robin. That was the low point.

He's back with the Coens again in a movie that resembles a formulaic Hollywood rom-com. In fact, there are so few Coenisms that it's hard to believe that the guys who made Barton Fink and The Big Lebowski made this. Then you notice that Robert Ramsey and Matthew Stone are also credited as screenwriters, which is odd because the brothers always do their own thing.

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The plot is suitably twisted, however. The obscenely successful divorce lawyer Miles Massey (Clooney) has a low boredom threshold. He likes to take risks simply to make the business of imaginative invention more interesting. When he comes up against Marylin (Catherine Zeta-Jones), the impossibly beautiful wife of millionaire Rex Rexroth (Edward Herrmann), he can't keep his mind on the job.

Miles doesn't like to lose. It's not just the money, it's the pride. It's also the challenge. Marylin affects a sugar-wouldn't-melt approach, seemingly resilient to setbacks, confident of her hard-to-get seduction techniques. He's slap happy with the punchy putdowns and she's ice cool with the one-line closures.

What might have been a scintillating satire on the cynicism of legal shenanigans is a pleasant enough runaround, in which smarty pants Miles is persistently outmanouvered by the devious ploys of the lovely lady.

Scene: exclusive restaurant in Los Angeles. Miles and Marylin at a table. Miles orders his favourite lamb dish for both.

Miles: I assume you're a carnivore.

Marylin: You have no idea!

By the end, the has every idea. Boom! Boom!

Clooney delivers in spades. You don't have to look too far for a 21st century Cary Grant. Zeta-Jones takes on the supporting role with the style of a natural born screen goddess. Somewhere beneath this gorgeous creation is a laughing girl from the Welsh valleys, who is not allowed out when Marylin's on camera.

Reviewed on: 23 Oct 2003
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A divorce lawyer pits his wits against the wife of a millionaire.
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Director: Joel Coen

Writer: Robert Ramsey, Matthews Stone, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Starring: George Clooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Geoffrey Rush, Cedril The Entertainer, Edward Herrmann, Richard Jenkins, Billy Bob Thornton, Paul Adelstein

Year: 2003

Runtime: 100 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US

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