Thursday, 3 February 2011

“Intolerable Cruelty”. A Review Of The 2003 Film Now Reissued On A 2011 BLU RAY.

"…It’s A Challenge…"

As Donovan Donaly (Geoffrey Rush) drives along a sun-drenched palm-tree-lined avenue in suburban California in his Jaguar Coupe, ponytail bobbing in the gentle breeze, he is smugly singing along to Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Boxer”. The lyrics speak of loose ladies on Seventh Avenue in New York and the broke fighter partaking of their flesh in weaker moments. When he gets into his house, he finds his wife Bonnie (Stacey Travis) is doing just that - having it off with Ollie the pool man - a stoner with erection problems who says ‘man’ all the time. A fight ensues and Donovan has the spikes of his Daytime Television Lifetime Achievement Award rammed into his fleshy backside. Gunshots are fired…the guilty parties speed off…and as he giggles manically, Donovan takes Polaroids of his bloody posterior for divorce-battle evidence. It then goes into the opening credits - cartoon cupids tying each other to trees and behaving very badly indeed - as the cautionary words of Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds” counter the cheesy yet somehow romantic Valentine’s Day visuals.
It’s very witty stuff…it’s very Coens.

And now in early 2011, “Intolerable Cruelty” arrives on a Universal Blu Ray - and I for one am loving it.

George Clooney plays Miles Massey, a legendarily effective but bored divorce lawyer - and Catherine Zeta-Jones plays Marilyn Rexroth – a beautiful and skilled socialite who marries rich older-men - and not necessarily for their conversational skills. When Miles encounters Marilyn in his offices with another divorce lawyer Freddy Bender (a superb Richard Jenkins - the father in Six Feet Under), there is an obvious fascination and attraction between them. Miles then exposes her scam with Rex Rexroth, Marilyn starts another one – and then ensues a game of mental cat and mouse. But in the ultimate game of 'life and love' - who is actually winning what?

Despite the mixed reviews it received at the time (and it still divides fans now), I’ve always liked “Intolerable Cruelty”. Even if you don’t think it works as a cohesive whole, there’s a lot to enjoy in the spaces in-between. To start with there’s rare and genuine chemistry between Clooney and Jones who both manage to be attractive, sappy, witty and ruthless all at the same time. Clooney in particular is fantastic. In his scenes with Stacey Travis and Edward Herrmann (dialogue above), he shows superlative comedic acting chops. When George is given good material like this, he’s just ‘so’ good at it - very Cary Grant.

The lesser roles too are many and brilliant. There’s a scene-stealing Cedric The Entertainer as Gus Petch (“I’m gonna nail yo’ ass!”), Edward Herrmann as Rex Rexroth the elderly executive who has a passion for women in underwear mimicking the sound of Choo Choo trains, Billy Bob Thornton as Howard D. Doyle the ah-shucks oil tycoon who eats a cast-iron marriage contract to prove his love to Marilyn (her next victim), Jonathan Hadary as the wonderfully camp Heinz, The Baron Von Espy (“is that silly man in this courtroom today…”) and Tom Aldredge as the truly grotesque Herb Myerson - owner of the law-firm Miles works for – who is on a life–support machine and still spluttering on about ‘billable hours’ through a voice box (what Miles fears he will become).

The dialogue is so cleverly choreographed too. Take the scene where Miles is sat beside a client in a courtroom with his long-suffering law associate Wrigley sat at the other end of the table (Paul Adelstein). While another lawyer cross-examines the stone-faced elderly wife of their client (a brilliantly cast Judith Drake), Miles is twittering on about boredom creeping into his life. The dialogue ping-pongs between his list of material wealth and its vacuous trappings back to her hilarious statements about claiming to be her husband’s “…sexual slave for 36 years…” The lawyer presses for more details, she replies ”…he made a gizmo out of the vacuum-cleaner called “The Intruder”…the vacuum-cleaner was unavailable to me for several months…” The other lawyer shakes his head in mock shock “… several months without the appliance…” It’s ball-breakingly funny stuff and very Joel and Ethan Coen.

Which brings us to the print – which I’m glad to say is a massive improvement over the DVD. It’s in 1.85:1 aspect so it immediately fills the screen (no stretching) and right from the opening shots of the sunlight glinting on Donovan’s front windscreen, the clarity takes you aback. Even when Clooney and Jones are having dinner in a restaurant at night (indoor night scenes are notorious for shading and blocking), the clarity is spot-on - and Catherine looks truly beautiful. The real shame is the complete lack of extras – but as it’s pitched at less than a tenner brand new – I’m still pleased with the purchase.

“Intolerable Cruelty” is a Coen Brothers movie you should ‘rediscover’ – and the new Blu Ray format is the place to do it.

And remember boys, the absence of a prenuptial agreement in a divorce settlement - is the gift that just keeps on giving…ouch!

1080p High Definition Widescreen, Aspect 1.85:1 (fills the screen immediately on play)
English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Latin American, Spanish DTS Surround 5.1
English SDH (Deaf And Hard-Of-Hearing), French, Italian, German, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, French, Greek, Korean, Latin American Spanish, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Swedish, Turkish and Traditional Mandarin

1 comment:

Netherland said...

We are so excited to see that there is finally a product dedicated to Choo Choo Soul. My daughter has loved the tidbits on TV for months. This is a great package because it includes the CD and the DVD. My daughter enjoys both. She dances and jumps along. Glad to see that the DVD and CD have the important songs, including "ABC Gospel" and "Jump Jump" and I never knew my daughter enjoyed "Bullet Train". Buy it, you're going to need it everyday!

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