almost seems unfair to the rest of the world that there could be two people
in the world who are as cool, talented and just damned good-looking as
George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones are in this film. It wouldn't
work if they just had the attitude. It wouldn't work if they just had
the acting chops. Even the innate beauty alone couldn't carry a film.
(Okay, maybe it could for a while.) However, these two have the whole
package, plus a convincing natural chemistry that reminds you they may be
striking apart, but they're GORGEOUS together. As long as the two are
on the screen, you can't take your eyes off them. This is what they
call good old-fashioned star quality.
Coen Brothers' homage to the screwball comedies of the Hollywood studio era
needed that kind of star power. For, though this film is as close to
mainstream as the Coens have ever gotten (and maybe ever will), it still
takes place in a broad, over-the-top, surreal, passionate,
not-really-realistic world. The
brothers are better known for their dramas (Fargo, The Man Who
Wasn't There, Blood Simple) than their more problematic history with
comedies (The Big Lebowski, Raising Arizona, The Hudsucker Proxy).
film starts off with a wickedly simple premise. A self-confident,
cynical, win-at-all-costs divorce lawyer falls in love with a gorgeous
serial divorcé who makes her living on her rich ex-husband's alimony
payments. Can two people whose whole lives revolve around a disbelief
in true love fall for each other? Since each one knows the other is
only out for themselves, can they learn to trust? Should they even
try? Can they fight their own natures and not screw the other one
Clooney's character, Miles Massey, is a legend amongst divorce attorneys for
having created a perfectly impregnable pre-nuptial agreement. He first
meets Zeta-Jones' Marylin when he represents her husband, an executive with
a weakness for girls and trains (Edward Hermann), in their divorce.
Massey is losing his passion for his cutthroat profession, and he becomes
completely fascinated by the beautiful divorcée. It is not only her
beauty that intrigues Massey, it is her totally ruthless charm and
guile. He is by taken surprise when she soon is coming to him with her
next potential husband, a Texas millionaire (Billy Bob Thornton) to set up a
pre-nup to protect him.
Massey can't figure out what she is up to, and that just makes her even more
fascinating to him.
course, being a Coen film, there is the requisite rogues gallery of
eccentrics and malcontents floating around, including Massey's divorce
attorney colleague, who is a closet cheeseball romantic (Paul Adelstein).
There is also a flamboyantly gay concierge (Jonathan Hadary), a cheesy
Australian TV producer turned bum (Geoffrey Rush), a woman who bilked her ex
out of his fortune, but is now afraid to leave the house for fear of being
bilked herself (Julia Duffy), a cynical private eye who specializes in
divorce cases (Cedric the Entertainer), an extremely aged law partner and a
hit man named Wheezy Joe (Irwin Keyes).
film isn't perfect. Though they obviously have a great love of cinema
history, the biggest problem with the Coen's work is that the ironic
detachment they often feel for their projects can tend keep the audience at
arm's length. Also, the fact that all the performances are extremely
broad on purpose does not change the fact that it makes all the characters a
little cartoonish. But this film captures the feeling of the romantic
comedies of Preston Sturges much better than most any other film of recent
vintage. The dialogue is quick and intelligent and funny. I
could almost see Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in these roles, and that's
one hell of a compliment.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright © 2003 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: November 16, 2003.