A League of Morons

15 Sep

Oh well. The Coen brothers’ latest, Burn After Reading, is a bit of a disappointment. Their last film, the Oscar-winning No Country for Old Men, was a brilliant but awfully serious affair, so I don’t blame them for wanting to tackle a trifle like this one. I just wish it had the laughs and charm that a similarly light comedy like, say, the totally underrated Intolerable Cruelty did.

At least those two films have one good thing in common: George Clooney, who here stars as Harry, a womanizing charmer, who gets involved with Linda (Frances McDormand), a woman seeking money for four body-enhancing surgeries, who works at a gym with Chad (Brad Pitt), a dim-witted trainer who happens upon a CD filled with the security secrets of Osbourne Cox (John Malkovich), a former CIA analyst who is writing a memoir about his life in the agency, and whose wife (Tilda Swinton) is also involved with Harry. Got all that? It’s a twisty plot that meanders and doesn’t really ever go anywhere (intentionally), mostly because the characters are all basically morons.

There are some good reaction shots, and McDormand and Pitt seem to be having the most fun, but for my money, the best part of the entire movie is the last five minutes, when J. K. Simmons and David Rasche‘s characters try to make sense of it all. I think the Coens needed to put their characters in the film earlier and more often because their deadpan confusion is hysterical and the only thing in the film that really works. Burn wants to be zany, wacky fun, but it’s only mildly amusing. I’ll take Clooney’s Everett McGill or Miles Massey over Harry any day. So rank this one with the Coens’ The Ladykillers remake as a subpar Coen brothers movie. As I said: Oh well. They can’t all be Fargo or O Brother, Where Art Thou? I’m giving Burn a C+.

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