Cavorting with the Enemy
Miles Massey (George Clooney - Solaris) is a successful divorce lawyer who is not only the man behind the impenetrable Massey pre-nup agreement but has become so good at what he does he has started to find it no longer a challenge. That is until Rex Rexroth (Edward Herrmann - Richie Rich) hires him as representation in his divorce from Marylin (Catherine Zeta-Jones - Chicago) not that the divorce is a huge challenge but Marylin is. Smoking hot with steely determination Marylin is a serial wife, going after men with money to get her hands on it in divorces and this man-eater presents a whole new challenge. But having spoilt Marylin's plans by successfully representing Rex and stopping her from getting any of his money she decides to go after Miles and get revenge, toying with him in her complex games.
When it comes to Ethan and Joel Coen I admire their movies but am not their greatest fan, their sense off oddball and quirky doesn't always amuse me like it does others. It is probably why I like their "Intolerable Cruelty" because it is one of their most mainstream comedies which whilst having the quirkiness which is typical Coen also has a more regular romantic comedy level of fun. It also has George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones two stars that ooze sex appeal and whose sex appeal and chemistry really is a big part of what makes "Intolerable Cruelty" enjoyable.
Now whilst "Intolerable Cruelty" has a story and many wonderful scenes full of comedy including a brilliant opening starring Geoffrey Rush this is a movie all about two people and two characters. Yes this is a movie all about George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones as Miles and Marylin, it is about that they both ooze sex appeal and have this smoking chemistry which makes watching their characters basically flirt, toy and outsmart each other so much fun. There is plenty of other stuff going on but it is the playfulness of Marylin manipulating Miles and Miles becoming infatuated by the smoking hot beauty which is where "Intolerable Cruelty" is at its best.
As for that other stuff well "Intolerable Cruelty" is full of fun from Cedric the Entertainer as Gus Petch who catches cheating husbands in the act by bursting into rooms with his video camera to a witty court case as Miles defends Rex. It is all entertaining and with this central storyline which basically sees Miles fall for Marylin as she seeks to outsmart him and take him for everything it is predictable but also twisted fun. All of which is very mainstream, there is quirkiness when it comes to characters and some darkly funny scenes such as those surrounding a hitman called Wheezy Joe but it is not the stream of oddball humour you would normally associate with the Coen's. Now for me this makes "Intolerable Cruelty" easy to watch as sometimes the Coen's sense of humour is lost on me but at the same time I can see how for Coen devotees the lack of dark, oddball humour could be a disappointment.
Now whilst George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones are the stars and the reason why "Intolerable Cruelty" works there is a wonderful collection of supporting performances with both Geoffrey Rush and Edward Herrmann delivering some fantastic scenes filled with over the top humour. But it is Richard Jenkins as lawyer Freddy Bender who steals many a scene as Miles' rival and the court case with him constantly opposing is hilarious.
What this all boils down to is that "Intolerable Cruelty" is an enjoyable romantic comedy which is the most mainstream comedy I have seen from the Coens. It is twisted, quirky and daft but if you like things simple rather than darkly funny this works as does the chemistry between George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones.