In which Hannah watches… Intolerable Cruelty

In a world often divided into major Coens and minor Coens, Intolerable Cruelty is probably the first to come up that I consider minor. Which is why I had to borrow a copy, because I no longer own it.

‘The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars but in ourselves.’

It’s not a bad film in many ways. As screwball rom-coms go it’s a pretty ok one. It’s just not quite romantic enough, not quite comedy enough, and not quite screwy enough.

But fundamentally, it just can’t quite get over the fact that it didn’t originate with them.

It’s just a little bit too straightforward a story for the Coens – and it also suffers from their more hard-edged tendencies (especially in one particular plot move that would work in a black comedy but not in this). Perhaps it’s just me who likes their screwballs a big like a mint humbug, minty crisp outer shell, and a sweet chewy centre. Intolerable Cruelty doesn’t quite manage the soft-heart.

But I do enjoy the Tenzing Norgay reference.

Coen-isms:

  • Empty Roads? A Coen brothers film that opens with a car driving down an empty road. Check.
  • Terrifyingly bright daylight? It’s all terrifyingly bright daylight all the way to the divorce court.
  • Incredible Carter Burwell score? Burwell score, check. Incredible? It’s a minor Burwell.
  • Very realistic violence? The opening fight between Geoffrey Rush and his cheating wife is extremely plausible.
  • Extremely black lines delivered straight? I knew this one before I started, and it isn’t a line, it’s a shot. It involves a man, an asthma inhaler, and a gun. If you’ve seen the film you know the moment I mean.
  • An obsession with odd hair? No (although Geoffrey Rush’s hair is bad) This film’s obsession is teeth.
  • And pretty great female leads? Marilyn Rexroth, who is here to, ‘Nail his ass.‘ She’s smart, she’s determined, I’m here for her desire for independence if not wild about her means of getting at it. The problem is that the film doesn’t really let her be more than that. It’d be ok for Miles to only fall for her for those reasons, but the film doesn’t give her room to show if there’s much more to her than that, in the way that it gives Miles room to develop as a character. Sorry Coens, you’re in the standard rom-com female lead space here. I am disappoint.

I might be a bigger fan of George Clooney’s PA – but then as a former assistant, I have an abiding soft spot for tough-as-nails PAs.

Previously: The Man Who Wasn’t There
Up Next: No Country for Old Men

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