Intolerable Cruelty movie poster
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Intolerable Cruelty movie poster

Intolerable Cruelty Movie Review

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Two A-List actors prove that the movie is more important to audiences than the people in it, as Intolerable Cruelty failed miserably in theaters - for good reason.

Directed by talented directors Joel and Ethan Coen (Fargo) and starring George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones - not to mention the likes of Billy Bob Thornton, Geoffrey Rush and Cedric the Entertainer - Intolerable Cruelty had everything going for it. The trailers were funny and boasted the movie's star power; it was all but destined to become a hit. Alas, come opening day, no one showed up, perhaps because they (myself not included) had a premonition that this seemingly clever romantic comedy was actually going to be a boring, silly and ultimately dark, bomb. It is hard to figure out how, with so many people that can make movies go so right, this movie turned out so badly.

Intolerable Cruelty is about a divorce lawyer (Clooney) who is famous for twisting the truth and getting huge settlements, who, after successfully winning a case against a beautiful gold-digger (Zeta-Jones), falls in love with her. The story goes on from there as he tries to entice her into marriage, all the while knowing that she is scheming to get the big settlement out of some rich fool. Of course, could that fool be him?

There are several problems with Intolerable Cruelty, the first one being that the story just doesn't work as a romantic comedy. The movie is about a divorce lawyer and a gold-digger - it is not fitting for them to fall in love and have the audience believe it. Basically, there is absolutely no chemistry between the two characters, or the actors. Clooney and Zeta-Jones are both immensely talented, but even they can't hide the fact that there is nothing there.

That being said, Intolerable Cruelty does excel in its dialogue, at least for the first half of the movie. The scenes where the two main characters play off of each other are pretty good; the dialogue is fast and witty. Billy Bob Thornton's short role as a fast-talking oil baron is pretty entertaining. Edward Hermann also turns in a good performance as another millionaire that falls victim to Zeta-Jones' character.

All of the actors involved in this picture have reputable careers, but their characters here are limited by the screenplay. A few of them, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, are written well, but most come out awkwardly and in bad taste. That includes the two lead characters. Zeta-Jones is effective, seductive and sexy as ever, but her character is impossible to like as the lead romantic interest. Clooney is fun to watch on screen, but he starts out as a conniving divorce attorney and ends as a man who puts a hit out on his estranged wife. These are hardly characters we can root for.

Worse than the characters, however, is the basic fact that this movie just isn't that good. The first half hour is fairly effective in setting up some loopy storylines not too different from other Coen productions, but the rest of Intolerable Cruelty just continues to spiral out of control. The writing becomes noticeably worse in the last half hour, and things go far beyond believability. Any chance of salvaging a meaningful romantic comedy out of this mess is quickly abandoned. This is easily one of the more disappointing Coen brother films.

Intolerable Cruelty pretends to be a funny romantic comedy, but instead is exactly what the title describes: cruel and intolerable. How so many talented people became involved with this production is unfathomable.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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