Classic Intel: Intolerable Cruelty - TV Review

'whilst The Coens were kicking Clooney into comedy overdrive, they seem to have forgotten to write him a proper script'

If Intolerable Cruelty proved one thing it's that The Coen Brothers do know how to get the best out of George Clooney. Burn After Reading may not have been anyone's finest hour but in this and O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Clooney gives the kind of unrestrained, subtly comedic performance that informed his brilliant Mr Fox (Fantastic Mr. Fox) and dynamite Lyn Cassady (in the ultimately flawed The Men Who Stare At Goats). Clooney can do suave with the same amount of effort it takes a skunk to create a stink but to do comedy, he needed the talents of Joel and Ethan to give him a kick start.

Unfortunately, whilst The Coens were kicking Clooney into comedy overdrive, they seem to have forgotten to write him a proper script. Intolerable Cruelty starts well (Clooney's divorce lawyer Miles is pitted against Catherine Zeta-Jones' man-eater Marylin) but quickly digresses into a flumping non-entity of a final third, rushed, unsatisfying, not clever; very un-Coen.

There's some lovely stuff that happens in between all this, which does very much feel like Coen magic at its finest. Wheezy Joe (Irwin Keyes) is one of their better characters, typifying the fascination with all things funny, grim and a little bit stupid. But, equally, although Donovan Donaly (Geoffrey Rush) sets the ball rolling, he, like a lot of the plot, feels like a marriage of convenience, rather than someone who went through a proper development cycle.

The Clooney/Zeta-Jones pairing is an ace card but its played too early, unlike Steven Soderbergh's Out Of Sight, which kept anti-hero and heroine (played by, on that occasion, Clooney and Jennifer Lopez) apart for just the right amount of time. It leaves the film with nothing to show and nowhere to go come the end and the increasing reliance on comedic relief Wrigley (Paul Adelstein) is endemic of the plot's shortcomings. Fleetingly fun but lacking in a several percentage points of Coen smarts.




Intolerable Cruelty was showing on Sky Movies in the UK, for users with an appropriate subscription.

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'The Coen brothers, Ethan and Joel, make significant strides towards classic "screwball" territory with Intolerable Cruelty, a much more tolerable comedy than we've been led to believe.' - IMDb Staff Review

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