A hotshot divorce lawyer becomes increasingly attracted
to a gold digger who is trying to land a rich husband.
Intolerable Cruelty (2003)
Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Written by Robert Ramsey, Matthew Stone, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Starring George Clooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Geoffrey Rush, Cedric the Entertainer, Paul Adelstein, Richard Jenkins,
Billy Bob Thornton, Edward Herrmann, Julia Duffy
I had heard for years that Intolerable Cruelty was the Coen Brothers' weakest film, that it was mainstream, trite, and below their usual standards. I disagree wholeheartedly. This film is quite entertaining, thanks mostly to the lovably smug performances of George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones. The audience is treated to a game of chess between two increasingly shrewd opportunists who are drawn to each other. But that Coen tone is never lost. It feels like one of theirs, from the bizarre subplots to the lack of any real stakes to the ridiculous side characters who stand out. This is a far cry from a weak entry.
Clooney plays Miles Massey, an accomplished divorce lawyer who is looking for a challenge. He takes a case involving very blatant infidelity and he meets Marilyn Rexroth (Zeta-Jones), a gorgeous gold digger who is trying to take her rich husband for everything he's got. An attraction blossoms between Miles and Marilyn, and suddenly Miles's worldview is turned upside down. It's a typical romcom set up, but the Coens never let it get as conventional as it could become. They leave their mark on this one by blatantly showing you who is conning who, yet you end up surprised anyway because the promise of hope and love keeps you going. By the end, who knows how things will work out in the future? But the journey was fun nonetheless.
This is a film that features Geoffrey Rush getting stabbed in the ass with a TV award and Cedric the Entertainer hosting a "caught in the act" hidden camera show. Just wanted to mention that, though I wish Rush's role had been bigger. He's just the best. Intolerable Cruelty is another hilarious Coen comedy that a lot of people like to throw in the bad pile. But it doesn't deserve to be there. Check it out for yourself, then make that decision.