Movie Mind Says: Buy It
If You Like This You Should Watch: The Big Lebowski
Better Than: O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Raising Arizona
Worse Than: The Sting
Starring: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton
The Movie Mind desperately wanted to hate this film. I went into it knowing that this latest creation of Joel and Ethan Coen would be much like the rest of their self-indulgent artistic nonsense that panders only to the Academy and their brethren (ala No Country for Old Men). It didn’t help their cause that the theater was oversold and I was forced to sit in the very first row for the first time in my life (is there any special treatment for this thankless career?). Going in, this film had everything working against it…and then it began. I must give a hearty pat on the back to those very brothers, who can’t even crack a smile after winning an Oscar, for putting together one of the more clever, entertaining, and amusing films I have seen in a while. A true “dark comedy”, Burn After Reading was a delight in the mold of The Big Lebowski that I can watch over and over again.
John Malkovich is Osbourne Cox, a CIA agent who has just got pushed out the door and has just lost his sense of identity. He has an overly important view of himself which creates a hilarious string of events that tie into his perceived self-worth. His wife, Tilda Swinton, is the definition of a miserable nagging bitch, and is only able to scare men into bed. While I am on the topic of the sexual tendencies of this group, you will see that they are all, how should you say…in “open relationships”. George Clooney plays the most deviant of them all as Harry Pfarrer, a man with questionable motives and a huge lack of morals.
The characters that bring the whole story together are a couple of numb-nuts gym workers that think they have just stumbled onto their very own winning lottery ticket. Frances McDormand is Linda Litzke, a quirky middle-aged woman who wants to reinvent her appearance in order to land the man of her dreams. The only problem is that she needs quite a chunk of change to afford the “procedures” needed to do just that. So when she and fellow gym-rat Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt) stumble upon some form of secret intelligence information, they plan on exploiting it to get what they want. Pitt is absolutely hilarious and thinks he can swim with the big boys, only he has about the same intelligence of the dumbbells he uses daily. There is one shocking scene with him that manages to be hilarious instead of traumatic and it is due to his amazing portrayal of this comedic sidekick.
Detractors will tell you that the film drags on (maybe for just a tad bit at the halfway mark) and that the plot jumps all over the place making it hard to follow. These will be the same people that will proclaim the ending of The Soprano’s was genius and that they understood the final moments of No Country for Old Men. They are idiots that you need not pay attention to. The film’s pace is perfect and goes hand-in-hand with its tone. While the plot may seem confusing at times, these critics fail to realize that it only builds the dark comedic elements and portrays the sheer absurdity of the situation. The acting was flawless and each big name actor was able to step out of their comfort zone and allow us to laugh at them.
I think this film may be one of the better films of the year. It was funny and entertaining with a plot that was just ludicrous enough to make sense. I can watch Malkovich in almost anything and he certainly delivered once again here. At first glance he looked like the biggest idiot in the bunch, but as the film progresses we learn that he just might have it the most together after all. When you see the other characters perform you will understand why. Make sure you do not miss this one and keep an open mind. Even if you don’t know what to expect I do think you will be more than pleased with the finished product.
Interesting Cameo Appearance: Dermot Mulroney (aka usually the “other guy” in the romantic comedy films like My Best Friend’s Wedding, Must Love Dogs, and The Family Stone) as the star of the movie within the movie, Coming Up Daisy. I give much props to Dermot for taking a little pot-shot at his image in this mock-romantic comedy inside the real film.
CIA Officer: We’ll … interface with the FBI on this dead body.
CIA Superior: No, no. God no. Burn the body. Get rid of it.
CIA Officer: OK.
Harry Pfarrer: Well, hello!
Harry Pfarrer: Yeah, I tell ya. I saw an ad for this in a gentlemen’s magazine. Twelve hundred bucks. I’m lookin’ at this thing and I think, ‘You gotta be kiddin’ me.’ I’m a hobbyist. Thing’s basically nothing but speed rails. I figure I’d go down to Home Depot and whip this up myself for… a hundred bucks.
Linda Litzke: Does he look like he would have a sense of humor?
Chad Feldheimer: Looks like his orthodontist has a sense of humor.
Chad Feldheimer: You think it’s a Schwinn!
Chad Feldheimer: Appearances can be… deceptive.
Osborne Cox: Give me the CD!
Chad Feldheimer: As soon as you give us the money, d*ckwad!
CIA Superior: What did we learn?
CIA Officer: Uh…
CIA Superior: Not to do it again.
CIA Superior: I don’t know what the f*ck it is we *did*, but…
Osborne Cox: Sorry, I don’t happen to know my account number because unfortunately I don’t sit around all day trying to memorize the f*cking numbers! Moron!
Chad Feldheimer: Osbourne Cox? I thought you might be worried…about the security…of your sh*t.
CIA Superior: Report back to me when it makes sense.
Linda Litzke: You should put up a note in the ladies locker room.
Chad Feldheimer: Put up a note? “Highly classified sh*t found: Raw intelligence sh*t, CIA sh*t?” Hello, anybody lose their secret CIA sh*t? I don’t think so!
Harry Pfarrer: Go around the corner, we’ll do it in the back.
Katie Cox: You’re so coarse.
Harry Pfarrer: Back of the car… not the rear entry situation…