Media Maven: “Burn After Reading” Movie Review
“Burn After Reading”
George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, John Malcovich and Tilda Swifton
“Burn After Reading” is a convoluted comedy penned by the Coen brothers. It’s a farce that jumps between many illicit relationships that simultaneously confuses and entertains the audience.
The film begins with a special government agent (John Malcovich) getting canned for being an alcoholic. In denial, he quits the agency, letting pride overrule his sense of good reason. Assuming his wife (Tilda Swifton) will support his actions, he begins writing a memoir.
Through fortuitous circumstances, the memoir falls into the hands of two dimwitted gym employees (Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand). A U.S. marshal (George Clooney) plays the fourth primary character in this romp, and he always carries his gun, though he “hasn’t needed to shoot it in over twenty years!”
After the character introductions, the film develops a loose story that is tied together by a thin string of coincidences. Although it is obvious that the film is meant to be cerebrally funny, it misses the mark. There is definitely an energy to this production, and it does feel like it’s a clever comedy of errors ‚Äî but it never quite gels.
Clooney in a comic role is both delightful and entertaining to watch. He brings that lighthearted, devil may care persona that is reminiscent of Carey Grant from the old Hollywood classics. He really is a comedic talent. His timing, facial expressions and character development are all believable.
Likewise, Pitt, in a turn as a Rabelaisian character, gives Clooney a run for his money. Any expectations of Pitt as being a sexy, altruistic, intelligent man are shattered as he plays to the hilt the stereotypical bodybuilder-trainer. Unfortunately as funny as he is, the movie trailer shows pretty much all of Pitt’s character and leaves the audience disappointed because Pitt doesn’t foray into comedy more often in the film.
McDormand, Malcovich and J. K. Simmons all give top-notch performances as they play off one another and the Coen’s chaotic, convoluted script. “Burn After Reading,” while entertaining, in no way has the same caliber as the Coen’s most recent predecessor, “No Country For Old Men.”
In a recent interview, the Coen brothers said that they worked on both scripts simultaneously, working on “No Country For Old Men” on one day and then writing “Burn After Reading” the next.
After seeing both films one can understand why “Burn After Reading” would not even come close to an Oscar nomination.
Chic Stars: Three Chic Stars
Jan’s Movie Rating System:
5 – Top-notch entertainment
4 – Compelling, Heartwarming, Thrilling, Comical
3 – The a) story b) actors c) special effects saved/made this movie.
2 – If you are bored, watch it, or wait for DVD
1 – Don’t bother. Too morose, too violent, too blasè, an enigma.
Photo: Courtesy of Burn After Reading