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Intolerable Cruelty (12A)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: A Look Inside Intolerable Cruelty; The Wardrobe; The Outtakes.

FROM its title alone, you might be able to guess that Intolerable Cruelty is the type of romantic comedy that does things differently. But, then again, have we come to expect anything less of the Coen brothers?

In a nutshell, it is about a man who wins in court, who falls hopelessly in love with a woman who courts to win, and is as dark and quirky as we have come to expect from the writer/directors, whose hot streak shows no sign of cooling yet.

George Clooney stars as Miles Massey, a prominent LA divorce attorney, who has an impeccable record when it comes to getting divorce settlements - he never loses. Yet, in spite of the success, he has reached a crossroads in his life, and is desperately seeking new challenges.

Enter Marylin Rexroth (Catherine Zeta-Jones), the soon-to-be-ex-wife of his client, Rex Rexroth (Edward Hernmann), a wealthy real estate developer and habitual philanderer, who would appear to have her man bang to rights, thanks to the tenacity of her private investigator (who has ‘nailed his arse’ in the act of infidelity).

When Miles puts one over the beautiful Marylin, and leaves her with nothing, the scheming seductress aims to get even, but doesn’t count on the chemistry between the two, and quickly finds herself falling in love, while trying to get rich from her next settlement.

The most brilliant thing about Intolerable Cruelty is the way in which it never follows the path the viewer is expecting, while also remaining delightfully barbed throughout.

As such, it consistently delights with its wicked deceptions and offbeat sense of humour, while never forgetting to play up the chemistry between its two main players.

Clooney and Zeta-Jones are red hot together, thriving on the razor-sharp script, and striking some fairly incendiary sparks off each other, with several of their scenes approaching the type of well-lit cool usually reserved for Steven Soderbergh encounters.

Clooney, in particular, is an absolute riot as the debonair attorney, displaying an excellent line in self-deprecating humour, as well as some nice nods to the suave, sophisticated charm of Cary Grant.

His comic obsession with his teeth is a nice homage to his previous Coens collaboration, O’ Brother, Where Art Thou?, while his nicely-played partnership with emotional colleague, Wrigley (Paul Adelstein), makes the screwball nature of the latter part of the movie glide with almost effortless ease.

Zeta-Jones, too, is an alluring presence, absolutely stunning in the way that classic screen sirens should be, while also exhibiting that ‘bitchy’ quality that makes her character so dangerously seductive.

And, as usual, the Coens’ keen attention to even the finest details allows their support cast to shine, with the likes of Geoffrey Rush and Billy Bob Thornton providing the showier of the cameos; Richard Jenkins, proving a blast as an inept fellow attorney, who clearly thinks he is cleverer than he is, and Irwin Keyes, similarly hilarious as a wheezy hit-man.

Credit, too, must go to the directors for not allowing the film to outstay its welcome, or drift towards unwanted sentimentality, while also keeping things frothy and uncertain right up until the final moment.

Intolerable Cruelty runs rings around most other romantic comedies this year and is the type of film you are likely to want to see more than once. So divorce yourself from predictability for a while, and go and have some fun.

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