Monday, 28 March 2011


The Film.

Around 20 years after Blood Simple, the Coens decided to make a screwball/sophisticated romantic comedy along the lines of those that Cary Grant used to star in. Unsurprisingly, they chose Clooney for the lead as, among many other things, he is a fine comedy actor with a lot of charm. Here he plays an unscrupulous and totally amoral divorce lawyer who cares little for matters like where the blame lies so much as how much he can get for his client (and himself).

There's a great extended cameo in the opening scene-setting sequence by Geoffrey Rush who then disappears for most of the film only to pop up near the end in a scene which delivers a neat delayed payoff from the results of his divorce where he got screwed by Clooney. Clooney's next case is to keep his client's wife's hands off his assets despite the fact that she caught him in the act -and, for the sake of brevity, I'm going to completely omit the role of Cedric the Entertainer in this film. Clooney succeeds by managing to accurately portray her as a conniving devious gold-digger. Unfortunately the wife left with nothing is a woman who is as unscrupulous as Clooney himself. Yes, you guessed it, it's Catherine Zeta-Jones who delivers a great performance played completely straight (unlike Clooney who tends to mug a little too much). Zeta-Jones (I'm sure there didn't used to be a hyphen in her name but there is now) isn't a great dramatic actress but within her range there are few who can match. Here she is poised, astute, highly intelligent, and devastatingly beautiful. No surprise that, against his better judgement and knowing what she is, he falls for her.

Thus the stage is set for an engaging battle of wits as Zeta-Jones schemes to overturn the downturn in her fortunes. I won't say how as this would spoil the fun for you if you haven't seen it. Clooney and Z-J (pronounced Zee-Jay) have great chemistry together which sucks you in and makes you want there to be a happy end while all the time wondering how the hell that could be possible. There's also the funniest accidental-suicide scene ever. Add the usual gallery of great supporting roles that populate Coen films (including Billy Bob Thornton and, in a cameo, the legend himself  Bruce Campbell) and you have a supremely entertaining piece of fluff. Gosh, writing this makes me feel like watching it again.

Random Notes.
Unusually for the Coens there are two other writers involved in the screenplay. Whether they wrote the original scripts and the Brothers substantially revised it or what, I don't know.

Apparently a number of critics had a go at the Coens for wasting their talents with this lightweight diversion. Ah fuck 'em if they can't take a joke. If this is the sort of movie the Coens do to relax I wish they'd make more. Incidentally, I won't be reviewing Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? because it isn't in either sets and I bought the DVD (and the soundtrack CD, apart from The Sound of Music back in the 60's, a first for me) years ago.

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