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Intolerable Cruelty (Widescreen Edition) (2003)

A movie directed by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen

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Barely tolerable Coen Brothers cruelty

  • Mar 22, 2010
What if the Coen Brothers gave a movie and nobody came? Oh, sure, they had big-name stars--Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones. But no John Turturro, no John Goodman, no Steve Buscemi, no Frances McDormand! I didn't watch this movie when it first came out, because it was the type of romantic comedy that I usually choose to avoid, and when I got to this place in my race through the Coen Brothers catalog, I didn't realize what it was until my wife said, "Why did you get this movie from Netflix?" with more than a hint of disdain in her voice. My wife, who does often choose to watch romantic comedies, had seen this one when it came out, and didn't like it. As she pointed out, the signal was in during the opening credits when four writers, not just the usual sibling pair, were listed.

What was to like here? Well, speaking of the credits, Paul Simon's "The Boxer" opens the movie over the backdrop of Paul's original coming over the stereo of a droptop Jag, who's aging Hollywood driver tries to sing along but knows neither the words nor the tune, and closes the movie in a perfectly drawl -en version song by Colin Linden, who also gets to sing "April Come She Will" as a hippy priest presiding at one of Zeta-Jones's weddings.

And the list of what's not to like starts with A and ends with Zeta-Jones. Even though the CB coax a moderately tolerable performance from her this time out, a more wooden actress with less awareness of tone and subtlety could hardly be found in the last fifteen years. I'm sure they were looking for a certain look and must have found it in her to foist this cruelty upon us.

Clooney at least looks good and acts better, if with a sardonic and cynical grin in his role as a top-dollar take-no-prisoner divorce lawyer famous for the unbreakable Massey Prenup, which gets signed and torn up too many times to count. Clooney meets Zeta-Jones, a brazen and open gold-digger as the future ex-wife of a client, and is instantly smitten. She of course, decides to make Clooney pay after he leaves her shorn of the rich settlement she thought she'd get. Romantic comedy ensues.

There are a few CB touches. The aforementioned music is a strength. "The Boxers" closing "Li-li-li" lines taken literally provide a clue to what is to come and what has taken place. The sets and costumes perfectly capture the time and place, where money is king and Clooney can chew the scenery in his climactic Vegas speech to a matrimonial lawyers convention, speaking of love and cynicism, then exit down the center aisle to the slow-clap that builds to a thunderous applause--that dissolves into a sudden realization that he has been taken in love by the ultimate cynic.

But the twists have just begun, slapstick stands in for script, and the viewer for once is ahead of the Brothers, figuring out the ending (or no longer caring) well before it comes. This may be the Macy's of Kmarts--but its still a Kmart. I once asked if the Coen Brothers could make a bad movie. They tried, and came close. Three stars and my least favorite so far.

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review by . February 18, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
You know you can have the Coen's make a movie as mediocre as this and have one of the oldest jokes in existence that you can call a mile away and it still made me laugh as two idiots spray each other in the face with repellent while sneaking around in the dark.  That takes some talent and I think most of this movies talent quote went into that one scene.      Intolerable Cruelty must be the Coen's most mainstream movie due largely to it's casting which is a sign …
Quick Tip by . February 18, 2011
Slick super lawyer and a cold hearted gold digger start a relationship. Full of the Coen Brother's tics and style and that starts to work against it, not to mention the dated casting but I do like the idea of the movie.
review by . April 26, 2004
Pros: Great ensemble of actors      Cons: BORING!!!!!     The Bottom Line: Any movie that bores me enough to put me to sleep cannot score a recommendation no matter the talent adorning the silver screen.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie''s plot.    Somewhere between the ho-hum script, the (just) okay directing, the tolerable acting and the editing Intolerable Cruelty lost its allure and put …
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Todd Stockslager ()
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I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … more
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About this movie


A sleek George Clooney and a seductive Catherine Zeta-Jones square off magnificently in the divorce comedyIntolerable Cruelty. The plot is simple: Lawyer supreme Miles Massey (Clooney,Out of Sight,Ocean's Eleven) skillfully outmaneuvers gold-digger Marylin Rexroth (Zeta-Jones,Chicago,Traffic) when she divorces her wealthy husband--and she sets out to get revenge. But this movie comes from the creative minds of the Coen Brothers (Fargo,Raising Arizona,O Brother Where Art Thou?), and soIntolerable Crueltyincludes a Scottish wedding chapel in Vegas, an asthmatic hit man, fluffy-dog-stroking European nobility, and a legendarily unbreakable pre-nuptial agreement. Still, it's pretty restrained for the Coens; smooth and consistent, it never stumbles as disappointingly as their movies can, but also never quite hits the operatic pitch of their best work. It's still damn funny, though, with top-notch performances from the leads as well as Geoffrey Rush, Cedric the Entertainer, and Billy Bob Thornton.--Bret Fetzer
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Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Genre: Comedy
Release Date: October 10, 2003
MPAA Rating: PG-13
DVD Release Date: February 10, 2004
Runtime: 100 minutes
Studio: Universal Studios
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