on 21 February 2013
Looking at the star ratings on this film it obviously divides viewers between those who love it and those who hate with with few people being lukewarm in the middle.
The Coen brothers always subvert whatever genre they are making a film in and this is the closest they have come to a romantic comedy. But because it is the Coen Brothers we are not given the usual certainty that things will end up happily ever after and there is a real danger that one character will have the other killed before the end of the film.
Maybe some people don't like the fact that the protagonists are not necessarily the sort of people we are predisposed to liking: Jones' gold digger and Clooney's ruthless divorce lawyer. But that is one of the things that is interesting, the struggle is more with their own natures rather than with external factors.
The characters are larger than life but perhaps not quite as over the top as in some other Coen brothers films so maybe that is what some fans are disappointed by, it is almost too conventional. Or maybe it is sufficiently conventional for non-fans to watch it who then are unsettled by the slight distortion of the universe that you do find in their films.
As entertainment goes this film was laugh out loud at points all the way through. It has a good pace and never drags, and it was visually interesting, unpredictable and clever. It's not going to be my favourite Coen brothers film, but it is still better than 95% of everything that comes out of Hollywood and certainly does not deserve less than four stars.
I liked this "romantic black comedy" and my wife liked it even more. Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.
Miles Massey (George Clooney) is a top divorce attorney, known for his incredible rate of wins in courts and also for the "Massey Pre-nup", a supposedly completely foolproof prenuptial agreement. Marylin (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is a serial gold-digger, widely known for marrying wealthy men and then quickly and efficiently divorcing them with extreme prejudice (for them...). It is therefore only a question of time before those two cross swords in a series of legal (and other) fights which will be waged with INTOLERABLE CRUELTY!
This film is a comedy but this is the kind of comedy only brothers Coen can do - you must therefore be ready for absolutely anything and everything and the only thing which is certain is that you will be taken on a wild ride full of surprises, surrealistic conversations (especially in courts of justice) and some suprisingly good gags! Also interesting appearances by Geoffrey Rush, Billy Bob Thornton and Cedric the Entertainer. And of course at one moment Miles boss Herb Myerson (Tom Aldredge) and a certain Wheezy Joe (Irwin Keyes) will make their appearance - but I am not saying anything more about them, you must discover it by yourself...)))
I am extremely surprised that so many people hated this film. Me, I spend a good moment watching this cynical and cruel but quite irresistible very dark "romantic comedy" in which Catherine Zeta-Jones is splendidly beautiful (and deadly venomous!). Don't mind the haters, give it a try and enjoy!
As Donovan Donaly (Geoffrey Rush) drives along a sun-drenched palm-tree-lined avenue in suburban California in his Jaguar Coupe, ponytail bobbing in the gentle breeze, he is smugly singing along to Simon & Garfunkel's "The Boxer". The lyrics speak of loose ladies on Seventh Avenue in New York and the broke fighter partaking of their flesh in weaker moments. When he gets into his house, he finds his wife Bonnie (Stacey Travis) is doing just that - having it off with Ollie the pool man - a stoner with erection problems who says 'man' all the time. A fight ensues and Donovan has the spikes of his Daytime Television Lifetime Achievement Award rammed into his fleshy backside. Gunshots are fired...the guilty parties speed off...and as he giggles manically, Donovan takes Polaroids of his bloody posterior for divorce-battle evidence. It then goes into the opening credits - cartoon cupids tying each other to trees and behaving very badly indeed - as the cautionary words of Elvis Presley's "Suspicious Minds" counter the cheesy yet somehow romantic Valentine's Day visuals. It's very witty stuff...it's very Coens.
And now in early 2011, "Intolerable Cruelty" arrives on a Universal Blu Ray - and I for one am loving it.
George Clooney plays Miles Massey, a legendarily effective but bored divorce lawyer - and Catherine Zeta-Jones plays Marilyn Rexroth - a beautiful and skilled socialite who marries rich older-men - and not necessarily for their conversational skills. When Miles encounters Marilyn in his offices with another divorce lawyer Freddy Bender (a superb Richard Jenkins - the father in Six Feet Under), there is an obvious fascination and attraction between them. Miles then exposes her scam with Rex Rexroth, Marilyn starts another one - and then ensues a game of mental cat and mouse. But in the ultimate game of 'life and love' - who is actually winning what?
Despite the mixed reviews it received at the time (and it still divides fans now), I've always liked "Intolerable Cruelty". Even if you don't think it works as a cohesive whole, there's a lot to enjoy in the spaces in-between. To start with there's a rare and genuine chemistry between Clooney and Jones who both manage to be attractive, sappy, witty and ruthless all at the same time. Clooney in particular is fantastic. In his scenes with Stacey Travis and Edward Herrmann (the dialogue above is Clooney's reaction to his obviously guilty client's case), he shows superlative comedic acting chops. When George is given good material like this, he's just 'so' good at it - very Cary Grant.
The lesser roles too are many and brilliant. There's a scene-stealing Cedric The Entertainer as Gus Petch ("I'm gonna nail yo' ass!"), Edward Herrmann as Rex Rexroth the elderly executive who has a passion for women in underwear mimicking the sound of Choo Choo trains, Billy Bob Thornton as Howard D. Doyle the ah-shucks oil tycoon who eats a cast-iron marriage contract to prove his love to Marilyn (her next victim), Jonathan Hadary as the wonderfully camp Heinz, The Baron Von Espy ("Is that silly man in this courtroom today...") and Tom Aldredge as the truly grotesque Herb Myerson - owner of the law-firm Miles works for - who is on a life-support machine and still spluttering on about 'billable hours' through a voice box (what Miles fears he will become).
The dialogue is so cleverly choreographed too. Take the scene where Miles is sat beside a client in a courtroom with his long-suffering law associate Wrigley sat at the other end of the table (Paul Adelstein). While another lawyer cross-examines the stone-faced elderly wife of their client (a brilliantly cast Judith Drake), Miles is twittering on about boredom creeping into his life. The dialogue ping-pongs between his list of material wealth and its vacuous trappings back to her hilarious statements about claiming to be her husband's "...sexual slave for 36 years..." The lawyer presses for more details, she replies "...He made a gizmo out of the vacuum-cleaner called "The Intruder" The vacuum-cleaner was unavailable to me for several months!" The other lawyer shakes his head in mock shock "...several months without the appliance..." It's ball-breakingly funny stuff and very Joel and Ethan Coen.
Which brings us to the print - which I'm glad to say is a massive improvement over the DVD. It's in 1.85:1 aspect so it immediately fills the screen (no stretching) and right from the opening shots of the sunlight glinting on Donovan's front windscreen, the clarity takes you aback. Even when Clooney and Jones are having dinner in a restaurant at night (indoor night scenes are notorious for shading and blocking), the clarity is spot-on - and Catherine looks truly beautiful. The real shame is the complete lack of extras - but as it's pitched at less than a tenner brand new - I'm still pleased with the purchase.
"Intolerable Cruelty" is a Coen Brothers movie you should 'rediscover' - and the new Blu Ray format is the place to do it.
And remember boys, the absence of a prenuptial agreement is the gift that just keeps on giving...
PRINT: 1080p High Definition Widescreen, Aspect 1.85:1 (fills the screen immediately on play)
AUDIO: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Latin American, Spanish DTS Surround 5.1
SUBTITLES: English SDH (Deaf And Hard-Of-Hearing), French, Italian, German, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, French, Greek, Korean, Latin American Spanish, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Swedish, Turkish and Traditional Mandarin
When I purchased this, I expected more of a romcom. I guess this might qualify, but if it does, it is with a difference!
I found the first 45 minutes a bit crude and at times unnecessarily so and was just about to switch it off when the movie got better. I have to say the last 45 minutes entertained and kept me guessing about what was to happen next.
The movie might be social comment on the lives of the American mega rich, their pre-nups, divorce lawyers, money grabbing women and infidelity of their men, and if so, it does this with humour.
The plot is George Clooney is a mega successful, mega rich, divorce lawyer who is looking for more meaning in his life. He thinks he has found that when he falls for Catherine Zeta Jones, one of the money grabbers, who is apparently in love with him. But is she really, or is she just after his money!
Watch and find out!
Intolerable Cruelty [DVD] 
This witty intelligent screwball comedy appeared in 2003 and is a brilliant homage to its early 20th century predecessors with its intricate plot, clever screenplay and sharp dialogue slickly delivered by George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones in the mode of Tracy and Hepburn. Clooney is terrific as successful Los Angeles divorce attorney Miles Massey who unexpectedly falls for conniving gold-digger Marilyn Rexroth, a marvellous performance by Zeta-Jones. Good support is provided by Billy Bob Thornton, Geoffrey Rush, Richard Jenkins, Cedric the Entertainer and especially Paul Adelstein who gives a splendid turn as Clooney’s understudy sidekick. As is usual in a Coen Brothers film the satire is incisive and scathing, and in addition there are some particularly hilarious slapstick moments, in particular the inhaler and gun incident. Highly recommended.
on 23 February 2004
Sorry for using a qoute from this film as my title, but if you didn't get it this is just another reason to see this film.
This another exmple of the cinema magic by the Coen brothers taking a standard film genre turning it on it's head and completely twisting it with their usual flair, eye for great images and endlessly qoutable dialogue.
I noticed in one of the early reviews someone rated it 1 star cause it was't the corny romance they wanted, well it is romantic, cliched, but in the best possible way. This is short, sharp and very often laugh out loud hilarious, when i saw this in the theatre people where in tears laughing, and i was on the verge.
This isn't aromantic comedy, it's a screwball mayhem Clooney is excellant, Zeta-Jones does what she does best (looks pretty), Cedric the Entertainer although implausible named is fantastic, and minor characters like The Baron von Epsy and Wheezy Joe nearly steal the show away from them.
I can't recommend it highly enough
on 29 November 2014
This is a comedy and nothing else, but a comedy about the worst tragedy imaginable: the exploitation of marriage by social climbing women who marry rich men only to divorce them later with a very comfortable alimony or settlement, or even more and worse than that: a fully naked stripping court order, the type of court order in which you have to borrow a bath towel from the concierge or plain night warden to be able to run to your taxi without being arrested.
Imagine one of the best divorce attorneys in the field who destroys the claim of one of these ladies in court by demonstrating, one key witness in the stand, that the lady is nothing but a marriage bounty huntress, and then there he is falling in love with her, marrying her on a whim, with the best pre-nup contract you can imagine, tearing it up just after the wedding, confronting her for the divorce and falling in love again in the confrontation in the lawyer’s office and this time she destroys the pre-nup.
Don’t try to see anything subtle or deep in that. Love is unpredictable and no one can live forever without love, even someone as cold as the iceberg that sank the Titanic or as calculating as a world class chess player. But I must say it is so funny to see all divorce procedures, out of court or in court, ridiculed and being made fun of. It is true that’s what they deserve. But even so, man, marriage is a sacred institution, isn’t it?
But do not try to have nightmares on such a film. That is absolutely impossible.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU
Around 20 years after their brutal debut Blood Simple, the Coens decided to make a screwball/sophisticated romantic comedy along the lines of those that Cary Grant used to star in. Unsurprisingly, they chose Clooney for the lead as, among many other things, he is a fine comedy actor with a lot of charm. Here he plays an unscrupulous and totally amoral divorce lawyer who cares little for matters like where the blame lies so much as how much he can get for his client (and himself).
There's a great extended cameo in the opening scene-setting sequence by Geoffrey Rush who then disappears for most of the film only to pop up near the end in a scene which delivers a neat delayed payoff from the results of his divorce where he got screwed by Clooney. Clooney's next case is to keep his client's wife's hands off his assets despite the fact that she caught him in the act -and, for the sake of brevity, I'm going to completely omit the role of Cedric the Entertainer in this film. Clooney succeeds by managing to accurately portray her as a conniving devious gold-digger. Unfortunately the wife left with nothing is a woman who is as unscrupulous as Clooney himself. Yes, you guessed it, it's Catherine Zeta-Jones who delivers a great performance played completely straight (unlike Clooney who tends to mug a little too much). Zeta-Jones (I'm sure there didn't used to be a hyphen in her name but there is now) isn't a great dramatic actress but within her range there are few who can match. Here she is poised, astute, highly intelligent, and devastatingly beautiful. No surprise that, against his better judgement and knowing what she is, he falls for her.
Thus the stage is set for an engaging battle of wits as Zeta-Jones schemes to overturn the downturn in her fortunes. I won't say how as this would spoil the fun for you if you haven't seen it. Clooney and Z-J (pronounced Zee-Jay) have great chemistry together which sucks you in and makes you want there to be a happy end while all the time wondering how the hell that could be possible. There's also the funniest accidental-suicide scene ever. Add the usual gallery of great supporting roles that populate Coen films (including Billy Bob Thornton and, in a cameo, the legend himself Bruce Campbell) and you have a supremely entertaining piece of fluff. Gosh, writing this makes me feel like watching it again.
on 22 March 2009
Successful lawyer Miles (Clooney) seeks to help out Rex Rexroth (Herrmann) who is divorcing Marylin, someone the lawyer takes an interest in.
Intolerable Cruelty is an interesting love story with some intriguing ideologies of the lawyer's mindset thrown in and in true Coen brother's fashion, there is minimal ordinary cinematic conventions, a sophisticated choice of direction and a collection of A List stars giving energetic performances. So is this the finest Coen's brothers film? No.
Looking back at their previous releases such as Fargo or the Big Lebowski, the pair took on a challenge to make a genre their own. The almost indie Fargo and the black comedy Lebowski were very much their own with some exceptionally unique moments such as the bowling fantasises or the bizarre murders. This 2003 picture is trying to make a genre unique when in fact it seems awkward and utterly bizarre, and not in a good way. Having the concept of divorce thrown around with ease and using a man knowledgeable about his occupation only to be dumbfounded by the enemy sounds unique enough but in the end feels adapted from a tried and tested cinematic formula. The dialogue is inconsistent, there are some bad soundtrack choices in context and there never feels enough energy to give a bigger storyline, as if the divorce and battle against the system is enough. Throw in are a strange stereotype hit man and you're floating in-between crime and romance too infrequently to make for relaxed viewing.
What makes Intolerable Cruelty watchable is the brother's reputation. Their previous collaborations have had so many surprises and twists that you're sitting back hoping for some massive twist or dramatic turn of events, which sadly never come.
But this is worth watching for a classy sophisticated performance by Catherine Zeta-Jones who after her Oscar win for Chicago maintains that level of interest and energy and stars as the mysteriously intriguing vulnerable woman. Clooney gives good spark as does the supporting cast to give the inconsistent plot a bit of energy and intrigue.
The script gives a few good laughs but the inclusion of stereotypes and the consistent presence of normality does not do the Coen's brilliant direction any justice and is only saved by some charming performances.
on 11 April 2016
Miles Massey (George Clooney) is a highly successful (and by implication, totally ruthless) divorce attorney and Marilyn Rexroth (Catherine Zeta Jones) is an equally ruthless serial gold-digger, making a very good living from marrying then divorcing rich men. In the Coen Brothers' world, where nothing is ever quite what it seems, it is inevitable that they must cross swords at some point.
Another reviewer has commented that the Coen Brothers subvert every topic they turn their attention to, and that this is their single venture into the romantic comedy genre. It is a real "can't stop laughing" 95 minutes of surprises, unexpected twists and turns, and plot devices that only Joel & Ethan could come up with. The scene in which a bronchitic hitman answering to the name of "Wheezy Joe" gets his comeuppance is a case in point, when I first saw it I was helpless with laughter.
Clooney and Zeta Jones are perfect for each other in the lead roles and the cast list includes such luminaries as Geoffrey Rush and Billy Bob Thornton in relatively minor roles. It also manages quotations from William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe and iconic songs by Elvis and Simon & Garfunkel (including a version of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" played on bagpipes!).
I loved it!