Intolerable Cruelty

The least typical of the Coen Brothers' output, owing to the unusual participation of another producer (blandmeister Brian Grazer, responsible for Ron Howard's unmemorable, financially successful pictures) and no less than three other screenwriters (all hacks, judging by their filmographies), Intolerable Cruelty is thus their least satisfying. One gets the feeling that, after nine wholly idiosyncratic films, the Coens decided to coast this time.

It's maddening, because they are obviously such intelligent filmmakers that one would think they could have done something interesting with such shopworn material. Okay, there are a few funny bits, and a couple of surreal moments, but on the whole, the package is strictly by-the-numbers. We're left with a strained blend of Coen cynicism and Hollywood feel-good screwball comedy. They failed at this before (with The Hudsucker Proxy and O Brother, Where Art Thou?), but there they at least had some eye-popping production design to fall back on. Intolerable Cruelty, in comparison, even looks uninspired.

Which isn't to say I hated this film. I was just disappointed by the lack of effort put into it.

Okay, I kind of hated this film.

The plot, if you're interested, centers around a vain divorce attorney (George Clooney) falling madly in love with a femme fatale (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who plainly marries men for their money and then takes them for everything after a swift and painful divorce. A couple of cute twists to the story don't make up for a lot of labored comedy. The truly inventive Coen touches – an asthmatic assassin named Wheezy Joe; an ancient attorney who's rigged up to a string of tubes and plastic bags and reads a magazine called Living Without Intestines – are few and far between. Fans of the filmmakers might call this an exercise in genre cliches. Most others will find it generic and forgettable.