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Intolerable Cruelty (2003)

  Directed by: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Written by: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Starring: Paul Adelstein, George Clooney, Geoffrey Rush, Billy Bob Thornton, Catherine Zeta-Jones
Links: Intolerable Cruelty on the IMDb, Official site, Buy the Soundtrack, Buy on Video, Buy on DVD
Genre: Comedy

This movie gets: 7.33 (3 ratings) Ranking: Ranked equal 95th of 187 movies (2 ratings minimum; see full chart)

Intolerable Cruelty (2003) is also mentioned in mino's review of Barton Fink (1991) and em_fiction's review of The Man Who Wasn't There (2001).

"If it walks like a duck, smells like a duck and quaks, it must be a Coen Brothers movie" - a review by citizenjoe

I saw this movie a while ago and have not yet written a review as I haven't yet come to a decision on it. Yes, it's a Coen Brothers movie which is an event in itself.

Ahhhhh, it's a romantic comedy, which means it's an event to avoid as far as I am concerned.

Here's what I have been struggling with (struggling may be a big word. It's not a struggle in the Mao, Lennin, Mandela kind of way. It's more of a grapple.)

If you were to ask someone to make a comedy that smelt, walked and talked like a Coen Brothers movie, then asked them to add a couple of quirky little bits (watch out for that award and always be careful with an asthma blower), you would come up with something like Intolerable Cruelty.

Wow, what a coup if you could get the Coen Brothers to direct it.

You see, for me it all feels mighty second hand. The thing I love about the Coen Brothers is their tack on the world. Blood Simple, Miller's Crossing (1990), Fargo (1996), all take a genre and twist it until there is a unique spin on it and you see it re-born.

Intolerable Cruelty takes the most successful genre of all time and twisted and turned it to give it a spin that is slightly amusing, yet not very Coen.

Don't get me wrong, George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones do a wonderful job. It's funny in parts but there's just something missing.

Go see it, you'll like it.

citizenjoe gives this movie 6 out of 10.
Review created on Wed 10 Dec 2003

"Just be careful with that asthma medication, okay?" - a review by pearly

Annoyingly, I had one of my worst cinema experiences in a long time whilst watching Intolerable Cruelty. It probably serves me right for going to Hoyts Chadstone, but hey, I'd been there recently and not had any problem. This time around though, there was a mother, father, and their young daughter in the same row as us, who insisted on coming and going about 5 times during the film. As a result, I became very distracted and fidgety. Still, while we were watching the end credits, they scooted past us again, and the little girl said to us "you can leave now, the movie is over!" in the cutest voice, so it was hard to be mad at her.

I like the Coen Brothers. Ethan Coen and Joel Coen make some interestingly unusual movies. This time around, they've gone for a romantic comedy flavour. I fear there is only so far you can go with this genre. Even Peter Thompson said it was "one of the most accessible Coen brothers films". He meant it as a compliment, but I'm not really sure that it is one. I like a bit of kookiness in films.

The Coens have created a likeable film here, but that's about the best I can do with it. It's not superb, ground-breaking, spectacular, or any other slurry of words that you could use to describe some of their other films. The better actors in the bunch (Geoffrey Rush and Billy Bob Thornton) have small parts compared to the more mediocre ones (George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones), which is annoying, but I guess these guys are just the icing on the cake. Irwin Keyes as the unfortunate asthmatic hitman Wheezy Joe is a great example of this - he was like mint icing with a light tinge of green food colouring. Similarly, Jonathan Hadary as Heinz, the Baron Krauss von Espy was hilarious, but he was more of a fluffy strawberry frosting in a bright pink shade.

Unfortunately, my distracted viewing has left me with little else to say at this point.

pearly gives this movie 8 out of 10.
Review created on Wed 29 Oct 2003

"Coen's RomCom tha bomb" - a review by mino

Normally, the words ‘Romantic’ and ‘Comedy’, taken together, make for a phrase that will make me run screaming in the other direction in much the same fashion as, say, ‘pus-filled’ and ‘boil’, or ‘rectal’ and ‘fissure’ — or, indeed ‘Zeta’ and ‘Jones’.

Therefore, the idea of a romantic comedy starring Catherine Zeta-Jones is normally something that would have me locked up in a bomb shelter, a shotgun held in quivering hands pointing at the door.

So what is it that could get yours truly into a cinema (well… a drive-in) to see such a film? Especially given, I might add, that it also stars George Clooney, a man who has possibly the most patchy career in the history of motion pictures — for every Out Of Sight (1998), there's a The Peacemaker (1997); for every Three Kings (1999), there's a Batman & Robin (1997); for every From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), a The Perfect Storm (2000). Well, the answer's simple: Intolerable Cruelty isn't just a romantic comedy; it's a Coen brothers romantic comedy. And if Joel Coen and Ethan Coen can do one thing only, it's make a damn fine movie.

No matter how good the Coens are, though, you have to be worried about the idea of them directing Zeta-Jones — and I was. However, the least I could do was give them a chance. I'd like to tell you that five minutes in, my worries weren't gone — but they weren't. Far from it, in fact. While an opening scene starring Geoffrey Rush is a good sign, an opening scene involving dodgy slapstick isn't. After one of the best credit sequences in a long time, though, the movie proper started — and I wholeheartedly withdraw any reservations I might have had.

Yes, it's a romantic comedy. It's an odd kind of mix, though: about 50% romantic comedy, and 50% a parody of romantic comedy. Or so it seems, anyway.

This sounds like a very odd way to make a movie.

It is.

But it works.

Intolerable Cruelty is no real intellectual journey, but the fact is it's a bloody entertaining movie. Clooney is Miles Massey, a smarmy and slimy divorce lawyer; Zeta-Jones is Marylin Rexroth, a conniving ‘rich bitch’ who seems to be mostly interested in marrying philandering old fossils for their money (hmm…). Needless to say, their paths soon cross, and all sorts of hilarity — and more than a dash of drama — ensues.

Clooney plays the same kind of charming fop here that he played in his previous Coen film, O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), though Massey is somewhat less likeable than O Brother's equally cheeky Ulysses McGill. It seems that the Coens are just the fellows to bring out the best in Clooney, because he really does fit nicely into these roles. Zeta-Jones, while not spectacular, is certainly very believable as a gold-digging vamp, and look: while you can say what you like about her acting ‘talents’, the fact is she's bloody stunning.

Intolerable Cruelty has some great comedy, some entertaining-enough-not-to-bore-the-pants-off-me romance, some drama, and heaping quantities of that sort of verbal sparring that the Coens do oh-so-well. Whether you're a fan of the RomCom or not — and I'm certainly not — it would be a drab soul indeed who couldn't get some enjoyment out of this movie.

mino gives this movie 8 out of 10.
Review created on Sun 26 Oct 2003

Movie review statistics

Number of reviews: 3
Average rating: 7.33
Lowest rating: 6 (by citizenjoe)
Highest rating: 8 (by pearly, mino)
Rating Percentage

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