Review: Intolerable Cruelty (2003)

intolerable cruelty

The logic of this film, that’s cruelty that’s intolerable!

Screenplay By: Ethan & Joel Coen, Robert Ramsey, & Matthew Stone
Directed By: Ethan & Joel Coen

Catherine Zeta-Jones is very close to non-existent in Intolerable Cruelty. She plays Marilyn as if she were a whisper carried by an afternoon breeze. It’s an approach that can work, and probably does work for some. It didn’t work for me as I felt the waifish stature of Marilyn made here a character far too aloof. I had no reason to connect to her, to care about what she was attempting to do, or how it could blow up in her face. When the time comes for Marilyn to leave her mark on the film she’s been played so lightly by Miss Zeta-Jones that she can’t form the strength to make any sort of lasting mark.

I struggled mightily with Intolerable Cruelty. Every facet of the film felt slightly off to me. Sure, the cinematography of Roger Deakins is gorgeous to look at, but it’s empty beauty. The acting of George Clooney, and Paul Adelstein is top notch, but it’s in service of a paltry story. Intolerable Cruelty is lacking in substance, it’s missing that extra something needed to bring the motion picture together. It wouldn’t be wrong to call Intolerable Cruelty a handsome production. It would, however, be just as fine to call Intolerable Cruelty a misfire in idea and execution.

The comedy of Intolerable Cruelty is where I had the most issues with the film. The humor of Intolerable Cruelty is very broad, and it’s tied into very broad, and very shallow, characters. I did laugh a few different times, but the mirth I displayed was fleeting. As quickly as I would chuckle I would be met by some sort of plot decision that didn’t make a lick of sense. Not only did the logic holes in the plot hurt the story, they worked against the comedy as well. The ripping up of a copy of a pre-nup nullifying said pre-nup, the plan executed by Marilyn; they are both illogical and the amount of disbelief needed for them to work hampers the film in spades.

There’s not much else I can say about Intolerable Cruelty. It’s an empty experience, and easily the worst film I have ever seen from the Coen Brothers. Intolerable Cruelty represents a rough couple of years for the Brothers Coen, as after years of great films Intolerable Cruelty would combine with The Ladykillers to form a one two punch of decent ideas executed horrendously. It’s not as funny as it wants to be, and it lacks the meat needed for the type of meal Intolerable Cruelty should be. Any fan of the Coen Brothers should see Intolerable Cruelty, but expect to be disappointed and let down by this mediocre entry in the Coen Brothers catalog.





2 responses to “Review: Intolerable Cruelty (2003)

  1. Good review Bill. Still interesting in short bits and pieces, but also definitely not one of Coen’s best moments. More like one of their more sketchier, mainstream moments.

  2. It’s missing that extra something, even The Ladykillers had Tom Hanks wonderful turn.

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