Intolerable Cruelty (6/10)

 Copyright © 2003 by Tony Medley


The first George Clooney film I saw was Out of Sight, in which he co-starred with Jennifer Lopez.  He impressed me as an ineffectual Cary Grant wannabe.  Subsequent sightings in things like The Perfect Storm and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind added fuel to my early impression.  In fact, when I saw him on an interview with Katie Couric on The Today Show on October 10, 2003, and he said, ďYou wouldnít believe the number of bad films that are out there,Ē I thought that apparently he hasnít seen any George Clooney films, because, if he had, he would have no trouble believing the number of bad films out there.

 So what Iím about to tell you should be something you can take to the bank because Iím not inclined to Clooney performances.  Intolerable Cruelty, burdened by an uneven script, is saved by exceptional acting by Clooney (Miles Massey) and the rest of the cast, which includes Catherine Zeta Jones (Marilyn Rexroth), Geoffrey Rush (Donovan Donely), Cedric the Entertainer (Gus Pesch), and Edward Herrmann (Rex Rexroth).

Miles is a slimy divorce lawyer, author of something called the Massey Prenup, which, if signed, relinquishes every claim in the event of a divorce.  Marilyn is a wife seeking a divorce when she meets Miles and Miles is entranced, even though heís representing her husband, Rex.  Miles canít get Marilyn out of his mind (and who could blame him; if thereís ever been a more beautiful woman than Zeta Jones, I havenít seen her).  After beating her in court, Marilyn reappears into his life with a new beau, Howard D. Doyle (Billy Bob Thornton), identified as an enormously wealthy Texas oilman. Howard and Marilyn sign a Massey Prenup, pursuant to which Marilyn waives any rights to Howardís fortune in the event of a divorce.  After that, things get more complicated as Miles canít get over his infatuation with Marilyn.

Clooney is very good despite a spotty script with some of the most absurd courtroom scenes ever filmed.  Thereís an art to satire, but this film misses it entirely in its courtroom scenes.  After such a brilliant film like Fargo, itís difficult to believe that the Coen Brothers could write tripe like the courtroom stuff they foist upon their audience here.  I realize that as an attorney maybe Iím looking at it more censoriously than most.  However, thereís nobody more critical of our system of civil justice than I, and people who want to take potshots at it will have me in their corner.  But, please, make them semi-intelligent.  These scenes are ludicrous and lose their effect by being so preposterous, to the overall detriment of an otherwise fairly entertaining film.

Then thereís the way it presents women, as beautiful, money-grubbing creatures not to be trusted. Marilyn and her friends sit around figuring out how they can capture another wealthy man and get his money.  This movie would be terminally misogynistic if it didnít show men in an equally bad light. I didnít see one person in the movie who could be called admirable.  This movie doesnít just hate women, it hates everybody.

What weíre supposed to think of as ďloveĒ between Miles and Marilyn is based on nothing more than animal attraction because they never have any kind of conversation through which they could learn anything about each other.  Itís not just that thereís no intelligent discourse between them, thereís nothing intelligent or clever anywhere to be found in this movie.

 Despite the inconsistent script and low tone, this has many funny moments. If you can forget the negative view it takes of mankind, itís entertaining because of the performances of Clooney, Zeta Jones, and the rest of the cast. 

 October 12, 2003