Friday 20 March 2015

Movie Review: Intolerable Cruelty (2003)

A romantic comedy set in the world of a divorce lawyer and his clients, Intolerable Cruelty rides the glowing charisma of stars George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones, but flounders after a bright start.

Miles Massey (Clooney) is a slick divorce attorney who specializes in either securing or escaping large settlements for well-heeled clients, and rarely loses a case. When the stunningly beautiful Marylin Rexroth (Zeta-Jones) captures her husband Rex (Edward Herrman) with his lover on video, she thinks that she has an open and shut case to claim at least half of his considerable fortune. Working for Rex, Miles is able to prove that Marylin is a gold digger who only ever married Rex for his money, and she gets nothing. But despite humiliating her, Miles is smitten by Marylin, and the attraction is mutual.

Marylin pretends that she wants to rehabilitate herself, starts planning for her next marriage, and claims to have fallen deeply in love with oil tycoon Howard D. Doyle (Billy Bob Thornton). She even seeks Miles' help to draft an iron clad prenuptial agreement to prove that she in not after Howard's money. However, Miles is suspicious of her motives and he is proven right, although even he does not know how far Marylin will go to achieve financial independence.

Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen (with only Joel credited), Intolerable Cruelty is one of the relatively weaker Coen efforts. A romance with just the slightest of edges, the film rides on a predictable rail, and even the supposedly big twist is easy to foresee. Which is not to say that the stars don't shine, because Clooney and Zeta-Jones are worthy adversaries. Both play characters who are sexy, smart and single-minded about getting what they want, and watching them circle each other before pouncing to either kill or kiss is rarely dull.

Although conceivably a romance, the romantic elements are the most poorly developed elements of the film. Miles' emotions are more about lust and conquest, Marylin has grander agendas linked to financial freedom, and the two are attracted to each other abruptly and mostly out of animal magnetism rather than warm enchantment. The movie works better when the two are competing rather than courting, and some good humour is provided by eccentric supporting characters including Cedric the Entertainer as a private detective and Jonathan Hadary as an unforgettable Baron Krauss von Espy.

But the film takes a sharp turn towards cretinism in its final third, and what was a reasonably enjoyable sparring match for adults turns to poorly conceived farce. An assassin by the name of Wheezy Joe (Irwin Keyes) is introduced, and while the character is admittedly funny, he takes the film far from its grounded premise and towards juvenile humour. The film deflates and never reclaims its good will.

Intolerable Cruelty is flighty entertainment, tolerable but not all that enduring.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

1 comment:

  1. Nice review, yes this is a kind of dark comedy. Sold well by the performances of George Clooney and Catherine Zeta Jones, and I'm pretty sure that Coen brothers always make films with a smile on their face. This time they use The Boxer to nail all situation perfectly.


We welcome reader comments about this post.