14 February 2005 | BrandtSponseller
Maybe I'm just not in the target audience for this one
Miles Massey (George Clooney) is a divorce attorney whose clientele consists primarily of the rich and powerful in the Los Angeles area. He's well known for an "ironclad" prenuptial agreement named after him and also known for taking his clients' spouses to the cleaners. But when he works his magic against Marilyn Rexroth (Catherine Zeta-Jones), he may have picked on the wrong person.
I didn't find Intolerable Cruelty very funny. I might have chuckled a couple times. The dialogue was mostly affected and pretentious to my ears. The story wasn't very interesting to me. I really couldn't get myself to care what happened to Miles or Marilyn. I've liked most of writers/directors Joel and Ethan Coen's previous films, but Intolerable Cruelty seemed to me to have little of the inventiveness and cleverness of their past efforts. I have also liked most of the past films that George Clooney, Billy Bob Thornton and Geoffrey Rush have been in, but here they seemed to be turning in just okay performances for bad material. Heck, I even loved Clooney's turn at Batman (1997's Batman & Robin), Thornton's portrayal of a rocket scientist in Armageddon (1998), and Geoffrey Rush's eccentric millionaire in House on Haunted Hill (1999), but Intolerable Cruelty just didn't work for me.
Still, I can't say the film was a complete failure. I'm giving it a 6 out of 10, which is equivalent to a "D" in my way of looking at ratings. The performances might have been just okay, but they were okay, not awful. The Coens managed some interesting shots, such as Rush through the windshield of his car, where we mostly see a reflection of trees. That was unusual, and effectively conveyed the heat and brightness of a summer day the way a more traditional shot wouldn't have. The opening scene had promise to me. The Wheezy Joe subplot was fun. The slight suggestions of surrealism in Miles' boss were very enjoyable, although on the other hand, I found myself lamenting that surrealism wasn't the focus of the whole film.
Glancing at other reviews, obviously the film worked for some people. Maybe if you're more in the market for a realist drama cum light farce about divorce lawyers, you'd appreciate it more than I did. But for me, it has me rethinking my desire to collect all of the Coen brothers' films on DVD.