Intolerable Cruelty (DVD, 2004, Full Frame Edition) Reviews
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Intolerable Cruelty (DVD, 2004, Full Frame Edition)

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Intolerable Cruelty - Dark Comedy Done Wrong

Jul 8, 2008
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:supporting cast, Catherine Zeta-Jones' wardrobe

Cons:script, comedic moments not funny, predictable

The Bottom Line: Two leads with no redeeming or sympathetic qualities don't work in a dark romantic comedy.

The trouble with comedy based around a specific subject, is that there are times when the subject just isn’t funny to some people. I enjoy a dark comedy, but for some reason, the off-beat dark comedy of the Coen Brothers in Intolerable Cruelty just didn’t appeal to me.

George Clooney is Miles Massey, a prominent divorce lawyer in Beverly Hills. He's not above lying through his teeth and creating false scenarios to come out on top in a case. He’s even created an iron-clad prenuptial agreement, known as “the Massey agreement”. Yes, his ego is flying higher than the planes out of LAX.

When he takes on the case of Rex Rexroth (portrayed by Edward Hermann) versus Marilyn Rexroth (portrayed by Catherine Zeta-Jones), Miles might have finally met his match. He himself is going through a bit of a rough patch, having difficulty "finding himself" after years of going through the motions in his personal life.

Rex Rexroth has been caught on video cheating on Marilyn. He wants Miles to prevent his wife from getting any settlement in their divorce, due to business concerns. Miles underhandedly manages to get his hands on Marilyn's address book and cooks up a scheme. It works, and Marilyn is left with nothing.

However, Marilyn is not yet done with Miles. The two manage to connect several times, and Miles is drawn to Marilyn. The question is, is she just playing him to get revenge, or does she really have feelings for him as well?

Unfortunately, I didn’t find it funny. I didn’t really care whether Miles and Marilyn ever got together. I found the whole thing sort of sad and pathetic. Marilyn plays with men to gain financially. Miles gains financially from other people’s misery without regard to right and wrong. I just didn’t find it to be funny.

Even worse, it’s pretty predictable. I won’t spoil it for those who might want to view it, but as Marilyn is baiting the hook to lure in Miles, she finds another very rich husband and I knew all along what was happening. There were no surprises, no “gotcha” moments. Instead, the sight of Miles sitting in a hotel bar looking pathetic and at a loss for words didn’t inspire either sympathy or laughter. I just didn’t care.

There are some dazzling moments. Marilyn’s wardrobe is beautiful, and Catherine Zeta-Jones wears it well. The two actors have chemistry and do play off each other well. However, what they are given just doesn’t seem to be up to their usual caliber. Clooney is fine when he’s a shark, even if it’s not the most likable character, but when he turns into a lovesick puppy, his character loses his credibility. Zeta-Jones in a sense is the same as him, but throughout the film she seems much more self-assured and the ice princess. There’s nothing she does or says that endears her to the audience, just a few moments where she briefly seems to let the guard down.

With two unsympathetic leads, the supporting cast does step up to the plate. Names like Billy Bob Thornton, Geoffrey Rush, and Julia Duffy are actually funny at times, unlike the two lead characters.

The DVD release is fine with enough extras on it that the studio didn’t go cheap. However, I can’t in good conscience recommend buying it when the movie itself is not up to the caliber of the normal body of work from the two stars. Even if you normally like dark comedies, Intolerable Cruelty might appeal to you. I know it didn’t to me.


• A Look Inside Intolerable Cruelty
• The Wardrobe
• Filmmaker Approved and Assembled Outtakes
• Cast and Filmmakers

© 2008 Patti Aliventi

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