Intolerable Cruelty: Thankfully not as cruel as its name


Oct. 15, 2003, midnight | By Yicong Liu | 17 years, 3 months ago


The age-old battle between sexes rages on in Intolerable Cruelty. Bombshell actress Catherine Zeta-Jones teams up with charismatic and equally attractive George Clooney in one of the most enjoyable and silliest romantic comedies to hit theaters this year.

Poking fun at matrimonial affairs has always been a sensitive topic, but screenwriters Joel and Ethan Coen accomplish it well. Intolerable Cruelty adds light humor to this complex issue, resulting in a silly but thoughtful movie that touches upon the legal business as well as the devotion that goes into marriage.

Intolerable Cruelty opens in the heart of California with matrimonial warfare rampant and in full bloom. Caught in the midst of a shallow world, Marilyn Rexroth (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a sly, manipulative woman, has her sights set on marriage. But not for love or family; Marilyn is far above that mushy, emotional stage. She wants to tie the knot for one simple thing: money.

After a long and torturous wait, Marilyn finally obtains proof of her husband Rex Rexroth's infidelity and prepares to present it in court. Putting up an excellent display of tears in the courtroom, Marilyn is successful until the intervention of her nemesis: a highly successful Beverly Hills divorce lawyer, Miles Massie (George Clooney). Through his equally skilled manipulation of the legal system Massie manages to win the victory that was almost sure to be Marilyn's, leaving her penniless.

Vowing to seek revenge, Marilyn devises her best plan yet. Massie, her target is completely unsuspecting. Through their scuffles and betrayal of faith, unexpected (though quite obvious to the viewers) love brews between the two. Massie, who scorns true love, also finds himself caught in hypocrisy.

The second half of the movie is perhaps where the Coens invested less effort. What unraveled in the first couple scenes as a complex plotline limps through the climax and scrambles to the finish. While the whole ensemble is a noble effort, Intolerable Cruelty falls prey to the rushed conclusion syndrome that plagues many other movies.

One fairly attractive aspect of this movie is that does not follow the conventional overly saturated, lovey-dovey plotline. Instead, the two lovers, especially Marilyn, deny their true feelings up until the very last. The result is a fresh-flavored film, spicy but with a tinge of sugar.

The casting for this movie is its greatest asset. Clooney is a natural on the big screen, commanding in his role as a successful man felled by his foolish love. As for Zeta-Jones, her charm lies mostly in her independent, confident and sometimes arrogant attitude. Cedric the Entertainer also makes an appearance in this movie as Gus Petch, a funny detective who makes a living off videotaping and catching love affairs on camera. His presence, though not in a lead role, serves as a welcomed comic relief.

Intolerable Cruelty teaches newlyweds-to-be an important lesson: Don't leave yourself vulnerable, get a pre-nuptial agreement. But don't take it too seriously. This lesson reflects the mentality that is associated with marriages today. Marilyn is a prime example, the product of a superficial society in which the tying of the knot is no longer an emotional tie but has strings of legal technicalities attached.

What keep viewers interested throughout the movie are all the little details that seem to tie together in a sometimes absurd but always hilarious way. Though many times outlandish, Intolerable Cruelty is a delightful watch, with a witty plot and a stunning cast. Not failing its comic roots, it is bound to tickle even those with the least sensitive funny bones.

Intolerable Cruelty is rated PG-13 for sexual content, language, and brief violence.



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Yicong Liu. Yicong Liu is a junior in the magnet program at Blair high school. She enjoys the many (I mean many) wonderful things in life, but mostly the fundamentals: food, sleep and fun. During the hectic school week, Yicong can be found staring at her computer … More »

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