Intolerable Cruelty

Directed by Joel Coen

> > Feb 2004

Intolerable Cruelty - Directed by Joel Coen
By James KeastThe word "mainstream" pops up constantly with regard to the latest effort from filmmaking brothers Joel and Ethan Coen, but Intolerable Cruelty is hardly some big budget blockbuster blow-out signalling the end of their quirky, character-driven vision. No, the "mainstream" chitchat springs merely from a couple of elements unusual to this film. First, it was written not for themselves but as a job for Universal films; given its fairly straightforward romantic arc, they thought themselves not appropriate for the job of directing and producing it. The accumulated star power George Clooney as divorce lawyer Miles Massey versus Catherine Zeta-Jones as man-eater Marilyn Rexroth is another supposed "mainstream" element. (Never mind that Clooney already appeared in the brothers' biggest hit, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and that they regularly attract A-list talent to their projects.) But like a gopher burrowing under a golf course, what the Coens are up to remains subtly under the surface. Whether its stupid, trifling jokes like giving everybody a silly name (Miles Massey is joined by Rex Rexroth, Donovan Donaly, Freddy Bender and Heinz, the Baron Kraus von Espy), Massey's obsession with his teeth, or flying knives of sharp dialogue whipping through every scene, this clearly remains a Coen brothers movie, even as it works within a well-trodden arena of hard-hearted woman meets soft-headed man. But on this DVD, the boys are clearly having more fun with their "mainstream" movie than anyone, and the extras which are typically lacking on Coen brothers DVDs are as "big Hollywood" as one can get. A by-the-numbers making-of (one of their first) is joined by a featurette on wardrobe and another of "filmmaker approved" outtakes and onset hi-jinks that amount to nothing of the sort. It's all part of a "sell" that the Coens want nothing to do with, but they're willing to play along for the sake of Universal films, uber-producer Brian Grazer, and any fans of their other movies that will enjoy a wink with the joke. (Imagine/Universal)
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