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Click for full sized poster

Intolerable Cruelty

Starring George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones
Screenplay by Robert Ramsey & Matthew Stone and Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
Story by Robert Ramsey & Matthew Stone and John Romano
Directed by Joel Coen
website: www.intolerablecruelty.com

IN SHORT: A brilliant, break all the rules comedy. [Rated PG-13 for Sexual Content, Language and Brief Violence. 93 minutes]

The rule being that we, the viewer, find something sympathetic and/or likeable in the main characters, even the ones we're not supposed to like. So here comes Intolerable Cruelty featuring a femme lead whose raison d'etre is to find the richest single man in her local environs (Beverly Hills), marry and then divorce the lug, stripping him of as many millions as an electronic bank transfer can handle. Her male counterpart is the best divorce lawyer in town --she's come up against the man in court and knows full well the length and breadth of his talents -- who is as slick as they come and whose methods, depending on how you feel about lawyers, are either underhanded or brilliant. He wins for his clients, no matter what depth he has to sink to do so.

Enough innuendo. Marilyn Hamilton Rexroth (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is the lady, so to speak. Miles Massey (George Clooney) is the lawyer. They meet when her hubby Rex Rexroth (Edward Herrmann) is caught in the sack by a hired PI (Cedric the Entertainer) and Massey is hired to protect the assets of the lout. By the time court lets out, a flaming burning hatred that cannot be anything but flaming burning passion has sparked. Nothing will happen -- Marilyn needs to find another zillionaire to keep her happy. Money is her "passport to wealth independence and freedom" and she doesn't have nearly as much as her best divorcee friend, Sarah Sorkin (Julia Duffy). All Sarah's got beside's her mansion and money is a nagging peptic ulcer but Marilyn takes no notice as she quickly nabs a Texas oilman, Howard D. Doyle (Billy Bob Thornton), to fill that bill as husband number two. The avowedly single Massey will be tormented by that gnawing sensation in his emotional gut that is venomous attraction, even as he makes his pitch for the (perceived) eventual divorce and the business it can bring.

In the meantime, though, he'll probably get his teeth cleaned. Massey's got a thing about teeth, one of those particularly quirky details that seem to be the hallmark of anything Joel Coen and his brother Ethan Coen put their hands on, even if only to put the finishing touches on a script that had been eight years in the making. That mark also includes very strange characters in smaller parts -- here including a hit man with asthma (Irwin Keyes), a concierge of noble heritage (Jonathan Hadary), lawyer Freddy Bender (Richard Jenkins) and a television producer (Geoffrey Rush) whose involvement is key to a script which tosses twists and turns as fast as it does sophisticated lines of dialog.

What it all comes down to is chemistry. Zeta-Jones and Clooney have it in spades. You can almost feel the crackle when they share the screen and we hope to see more on-screen pairings like it. The supporting cast is equally as good and whatever stereotypes form the basis of some of the characters -- as if you haven't seen golddiggers before... -- are dispensed with quickly by the funny and intelligent script.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Intolerable Cruelty, he would have paid . . .

$9.50

Anyone with any kind of relationship experience will rock with laughter. Intolerable Cruelty is nearly perfect (the only negative isn't -- we didn't feel the need to see it again, which would have gotten the perfect ten). It is highly recommended.

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The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.