Burn After Reading

September 15, 2008 by  

The Coen brothers never cease to amaze me, and have been two of the most prominent filmmakers this generation. Ever since their breakthrough debut, “Blood Simple”, they’ve not only made some of the most intriguing, intense and deep-thinking films in the last 25 years, but also some of the most gut-busting hilarious comedies as well. It’s hard to believe sometimes that the same guys who made something as devastating as “Miller’s Crossing” or “Fargo” could also make screwball romps like “Raising Arizona” and thoughtful cerebral knee-slappers like “O Brother Where Art Thou?” and “The Big Lebowski”. Well, you can add “Burn After Reading” to their already stunning resumes. Leaning more toward romp than cerebral, “Burn After Reading” is a fast paced, 95 minute treat that snaps, crackles and pops and is welcomed into the post-summer doldrums at the box office. Hard to say how much money it will make, but it is as entertaining as anything I saw during the summer.

The film focuses on a bevy of characters: Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand, as extremely hyper active and positive thinking personal trainers at a gym known as Hard Bodies; George Clooney as a womanizing married man who meets women on the Internet and also maintains a relationship with a mistress played by Tilda Swinton who is married to–and trying to divorce–the main focus of the plot of the film, and one of the funniest roles I’ve seen him play in his career, John Malkovich. Malkovich plays a CIA agent who is let go in the beginning of the film, and decides to make a memoir while he is out of work, while his wife makes the bread working as a pediatrician. The plot thickens when a disc carrying information about Malkovich’s financial files falls into the hands of Pitt and McDormand because the administrative assistant of Swinton’s character’s divorce lawyer accidentally left it last time she was at Hard Bodies. Meanwhile, McDormand’s character, Linda, who is trying to get her insurance company through the gym to pay for 4 separate cosmetic surgeries, decides to blackmail Malkovich’s character, Ozzie Cox, thinking she’s got major classified information about him. Cox, not knowing that his wife is trying to divorce him anyway, has no idea how this disc came about, and doesn’t buy that the blackmailers really have anything on him. Linda tries going to the Russians, and it gets even crazier once she brings Pitt’s character, Chad, deeper into it by making him break into the Cox’s house. Linda is also the next victim of Clooney’s adulterating as she is searching for love on the Internet, and with Clooney being involve with the Cox as well, things get pretty dicey.

That’s just a taste of how involved this plot is. It’s written so well and drawn out so succinctly and logically that you totally believe everything that’s happening. The other thing is, the movie is laced with the theme about trust and how things can get so out of hand so quickly because of ignorance, greed, and ineptness. The Coen brothers treat the script with care and don’t beat you over the head with exposition, nor do they overdo the zaniness. Pitt is very funny as he dances to his kickin’ iPod selections, Clooney is incredibly charming as he deals with some strange paranoias, thinking people are following him all the time, and always making sure after having sex that he can “get a run in”. McDormand is hysterical, and sometimes just her facial reactions to what’s going on make you chuckle. As I said previously, Malkovich is at the top of his game. It’s probably the most vulgar I’ve seen him, and that’s part of why he is so funny in this film.

This movie works on every level and is a very entertaining movie to catch on a lazy Saturday or Sunday. If you’re more into home entertainment, I highly recommend picking up a copy at your local (diminishing) video rental store and grab some popcorn and soda, and settle in.

It’s a fun ride, even if it’s short.

My rating: :smile:

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