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Intolerable Cruelty
The film with Catherine Zeta-Jones and George Clooney
. Get Intolerable Cruelty on DVD from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de.
Article added on December 1, 2003
 
Neither George Clooney nor Catherine Zeta-Jones are among my favorite actors. When I found out that they are the stars of this movie by the directors and screenwriters Joel and Ethan Coen - who have given us brilliant films such as Barton Fink, Fargo and The Man Who Wasn't There - I was sceptical, even irritated by their choice of actors. However, they all proved me wrong.

In the malicious and romantic comedy Intolerable Cruelty, the Coen brothers bring out the best in George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones, who both deliver their best performances ever. They are simply the perfect match.

George Clooney portrays Miles Massey, an unscrupulous Los Angeles divorce attorney with an impressive record. He even has an ironclad contract named after him: the "Massey pre-nup". He is a man taken with himself and obsessed with getting his teeth cleaned. Bored by his own success, he looks for new challenges.
 
The no less treacherous Marylin Rexroth (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is a big challenge for him. She is the soon-to-be ex-wife of Massey's client Rex Rexroth (Edward Hermann), a wealthy real estate developer and notorious philanderer. With the help of private investigator Gus Petch (Cedric The Entertainer), she has Rex nailed and is looking forward to a financially secure future. But divorce lawyer Miles Massey has made his own investigations - and she ends up with nothing.

Miles and Marylin feel an undeniable attraction for each other, but Marylin schemes to get even. As part of her plan, she marries oil tycoon Howard Doyle (Billy Bob Thornton) with a "Massey pre-nup".

Eight years before the release of the film, Intolerable Cruelty was just a writing job the Coen brothers did for Universal. But in the end, the project came back to them. When George Clooney expressed some interest in doing it, the Coen brothers decided to direct it themselves. Intolerable Cruelty proves that they can make quite a straight comedy for the mainstream, without renouncing their dark humor.

Normally, the Coen brothers write parts with particular actors in mind. Since they did not intend to direct Intolerable Cruelty themselves, that was not the case here. George Clooney, Richard Jenkins and Billy Bob Thornton have already played in their movies. But the other actors were new to a Coen brothers' production.

The Coen brothers' choices are, as always, excellent, probably only surpassed by the cast of The Man Who Wasn't There. The chemistry between Catherine Zeta-Jones and George Clooney is perfect. Geoffrey Rush is convincing as down-on-his-luck TV producer Donovan Donaly, and so is Billy Bob Thornton as loud and ignorant Texan oil magnate Howard Doyle. Edward Herrmann makes you laugh as mini-mall developer Rex Rexroth, a man with a fascination for trains and girls wearing engineer's caps - and little else. The attention to detail and the smaller parts (with most characters a little bit over the top) pay off.

Underhanded tactics, double-crosses, deceptions and love are the ingredients of Intolerable Cruelty, which is reminiscent of the witty battles between the sexes in Hollywood's classic screwball comedies of the 1930s (with
Cary Grant and others). A must see.

Get Intolerable Cruelty on DVD from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de.





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