INTOLERABLE CRUELTY —- “Let the record show that the Baron has identified Rex Rexroth as the silly man!”
Hot-shot L.A. divorce attorney ‘Miles Massey’ (George Clooney) may have met his match in knockout golddigger ‘Marylin Rexroth’ (Catherine Zeta-Jones), whose calculations for getting ahead through beds rival Miles skill at screwing with the law. Husbands and clients come and go, prenups are shredded, and shady characters flit through—‘Donal Donnaly’, ‘Freddy Bender’,’Ollie Olerud’, ‘Wheezy Joe’, ‘Gus Petch’, ‘Sarah Sorkin’, ‘Heinz–the Baron Krauss von Espy’.
Tart, smart and breezy 2003 Coen Brothers comedy takes its swipes at the absurdity of high-end divorce stakes among the moneyed crowd, in a throwback formula recalling screwball classics of the 30s. In the works for eight years, different stars and directors considered, things eventually ended with Joel Coen taking on direction, he and brother Ethan sharing scripting with Robert Ramsey and Matthew Stone (Joel doing the last draft).
With the cast, setting and production design more identifiably mainstream than previous Coen desserts, by and large the scripts verbal bob & weave evaded rom-com blandness. Clooney and Zeta-Jones click in the charisma department. Reviews were stronger than audience response. The $60,000,000 tab, still the most ever spent on a Coen Brothers movie–dang those star salaries!—was just barely covered by the global tally of $120,200,000 (it did twice as well internationally as in the U.S.)
With Billy Bob Thornton, Cedric the Entertainer, Edward Herrmann, Geoffrey Rush, Richard Jenkins (in form), Paul Adelstein, Julia Duffy, Jonathan Hadary (‘Heinz, the Baron Krauss von Espy’), Irwin Keyes (‘Wheezy Joe’), Tom Aldredge, Bruce Campbell. 100 minutes.