A revenge-seeking gold digger marries a womanizing Beverly Hills lawyer with the intention of making a killing in the divorce.
I liked Intolerable Cruelty a lot more than I thought I would, but it still ranks as one of the weaker films in the Coen Brother’s canon. ‘Intolerable Cruelty‘ focuses on a divorce lawyer, Miles (George Clooney), and a battle he gets into with a beautiful woman called Marilyn (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who marries rich men for their money. The film’s a breeze and gets a lot of mileage out of Clooney and Zeta-Jones good looks and easy chemistry, but it’s ultimately a little hollow. One of the issues I sometimes feel with the Coen’s work is that sometimes it can seem a little distant, with the happenings played a little too outlandishly, when they’d benefit from being a little more down to earth. It can equate to some great black comedy, and there are many good moments in this film, but marrying up the ridiculousness with the viewer’s investment is a difficult challenge that I don’t always think the pair are the best at.
The plot itself is expertly crafted, and plays well off Clooney’s natural charm. He’s a divorce lawyer that never loses, but the one thing he wants most is the one thing that causes him to let his guard down – Marilyn. She’s an equally smart woman, and the best part of the film is a delightfully clever spell when she manages to get the edge on Miles using a soap star and a little role playing to mislead him. Billy Bob Thornton follows up his lead in ‘The Man Who Wasn’t There‘ with the best supporting role in the film, with other enjoyable turns from Geoffrey Rush as a crazed TV producer who discovers his wife is having an affair, and Paul Adelstein, who I’ve rarely seen in anything other than the TV show ‘Prison Break’.
Clooney and Zeta-Jones do their best to elevate the material, and there’s a lot of breezy fun to be had with this film, but it doesn’t really get past ‘ordinary’, which is something the Coen Brothers most certainly are not. The next film I’ll be watching is ‘The Ladykillers‘, the pairs remake of the excellent Ealing comedy starring Peter Sellars. This is one of the more contentious films in their back catalogue, and isn’t particularly highly regarded, so I’m interested to see how Tom Hanks and co. can match up to the original (or not, as the case very well may be!).
Directed By: Joel & Ethan Coen
Starring: George Clooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Geoffrey Rush, Paul Adelstein, Richard Jenkins, Cedric The Entertainer, Edward Herrmann and Billy Bob Thornton