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Divorce attorney Miles Massey (George Clooney) manages to thwart the formidable gold digger Marylin Rexroth (Cathryn Zeta-Jones) in her attempt to walk off with the entire fortune of his client, the philandering Mr Rexroth (Edward Herrman). Marylin schemes to get even and part of the plan is to marry oilman Howard Doyle (Billy Bob Thornton) with the help of Miles – much to his surprise. Fascinated by this creature, Miles begins to fall in love, even while brandishing the ironclad ‘Massey pre-nup’ agreement, his ultimate weapon and sale item. The two smart alecks head for a showdown and their own wedding, but when their own ‘Massey pre-nup’ is torn up, who knows what’ll happen.

Review by Louise Keller:
From its spectacular opening scenes which follow a ponytailed Geoffrey Rush singing Simon and Garfunkel in his Jaguar convertible confronting a pool-supplies handyman for servicing his wife with more than chlorine, through the whole cynical money-grubbing cupid love-journey, the Coen Brothers have another sure winner on their hands. 

The script spits out gem after gem, and everything is a negotiation – even the vintage of the wine. ‘Everyone has a Tensing Norgay’ muses George Clooney’s teeth-obsessed divorce attorney who has everything, referring to that critical someone who helps the ambitious reach their summit. And what an entertaining treat we are in for, when Miles’ Tensing Norgay technique is put into effect in the courtroom. 

Dashingly handsome Clooney is just splendid as the bored, successful lawyer trying to find the meaning of life between successful litigations, while Catherine Zeta-Jones is exquisite in every sense of the word as the man-eating Marylin. There’s a lovely scene when Miles orders for both of them in a restaurant, with a well-calculated throw-away ‘I assume you are a carnivore?’ to which Marylin replies ‘You have no idea!’ Clooney and Zeta-Jones have great chemistry and their scenes together are sheer push-me pull-me magic. The ideas are wildly imaginative and the characters beautifully drawn. 

From wacky to plain bizarre, we meet Billy Bob Thornton’s oil millionaire who eats his words, Edward Herrmann’s ‘very rich, silly man with a restless winkie’, Paul Adelstein’s cutthroat lawyer who cries at weddings, Irwin Keyes’ dummy of a hit man Wheezy Joe, without forgetting the intestine-less head of the company hooked up to drips and other medical devices. 

It’s a marvellous, razor-sharp reality, filled with craziness, farce, slapstick and one-liners that will have you rolling in your seat. The smattering of love-themed tunes is toe-tappingly pleasing and it’s one hell of an enjoyable ride. The course of true love may never be smooth, but love, honour and obey have never found as satisfying a bridge as over a lawyer’s desk. A witty and sparkling royal flush of a film in the suit of hearts, Intolerable Cruelty is a dazzling fountain of laughs. 

The DVD’s extra features showcase deleted scenes – from both Clooney and Zeta-Jones, and there’s a short featurette about the film’s costumes. Wearing expensive designer suits says Clooney, makes it easier to become a pompous idiot. (The costume designer used Cary Grant’s wardrobe in Indiscreet as inspiration.) The Coen Brother talk about what makes a commercial film, and how the casting perfectly exemplified the hard-hearted woman and soft-headed man.

Published February 26, 2004

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CAST: George Clooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Geoffrey Rush, Cedric the Entertainer, Edward Herrmann, Paul Adelstein, Richard Jenkins, Billy Bob Thornton, Julia Duffy


SCRIPT: Robert Ramsey, Matthew Stone, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen (story by Robert Ramsey, Matthew Stone, John Romano)

RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes

PRESENTATION: widescreen; 5.1 Surround

SPECIAL FEATURES: A Look Inside Intolerable Cruelty; The Wardrobe – A peek inside the behind-the-scenes process of designing the wardrobe for Intolerable Cruelty; Filmmaker Approved And Assembled Outtakes: Paul Adelstein in ‘Everybody Eats Berries’ (1:30); Ladies And Gentleman, George Clooney (1:30) Ladies And Gentleman, Catherine Zeta-Jones (1:00) Rex Rexroth’s Home Movie (3:45) DVD-Rom Skin


DVD RELEASE: February 25, 2004

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