Engage the Enemy
Intolerable Cruelty
Review by Ross Anthony

Given only the stars and the title, you'll no doubt expect a film much different than the one you'll see. And at least for me, that's a good thing.

With a giddy, chin-up, straight-face delivery, the film is deadpan silly. The beauty of it all, is that we're so used to taking these two leads seriously, that our expectations help sharpen the edge of the humor. Though the picture takes every opportunity to exaggerate some truisms of divorce among the rich and greedy, we still somehow expect rational dialogue. And that's exactly why the ridiculous works so well.

While Zeta-Jones is perfect, it's really Clooney's character that runs the film. He's the high-powered, soulless, still-loving-the-challenge, matrimonial lawyer who's quite content until he meets his match in Zeta-Jones playing the clever beauty looking for a rich old fool to marry and divorce. They both know how to use the legal/love system to their financial advantage, but their pairing makes for fun internal conflicts -- played out mostly on the Clooney side.

If you like the odd quirky humor of the Coen brothers, you'll have fun here. Some other Coen films:
"O Brother, Where Art Thou" (also starring Clooney.)
"The Man Who Wasn't There" (Billy Bob)

No doubt "Cruelty" will be compared to "Down with Love." And rightly so, though this picture maintains where DWL wanes after pretty much spilling its load in the first third. "Cruelty" does have a fantastic roll somewhere in the middle from which the energy does dip and it endures a minor lull at the end of the second act, but it never really drags, never bores. Teetering on the edge of a B+ and A-, I'll round up.

Like the Simon and Garfunkel music/hate the title. How about, "When Miles Met Marilyn?" Or even the slug line is better "Engage the enemy."

To give you some sense of the humor the first line of the production notes puts it well, "It's a romantic comedy about a man who wins in court and a woman who courts to win."

Producer Brian Grazer: "Joel and Ethan are the coolest purest filmmakers in modern movies. Here you have a romantic comedy with mainstream movie stars. And then you add the Coens' irreverence -- and it's their irreverence injected not this romance that makes the whole journey very sexy and very unpredictable."

Intolerable Cruelty

  • Intolerable Cruelty. Copyright © 2003. Rated PG-13.
  • Starring George Clooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Cedric the Entertainer, Edward Herrmann, Richard Jenkins, Billy Bob Thornton, and Geoffrey Rush.
  • Directed by Joel Coen.
  • Screenplay by Robert Ramsey & Matthew Stone and Ethan Coen & Joel Coen.
  • Produced by Ethan Coen Brian Grazer at Universal/Imagine.

Grade..........................A- (3/4)

Copyright © 2001. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit: RossAnthony.com

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:07:57 PDT