Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Burn After Reading

Ethan Coen + Joel Coen | 2008 | 96 mins | USA

I heard a lot of hubbub about how amazing John Malkovich is in this film before I saw it, and now that I've seen it I have to say that the real killer performance award belongs to Brad Pitt. I mean sure, Malkovich is very good as the beleaguered, drunk ex-CIA agent whose frigid bitch of a wife (Tilda Swinton) intends to divorce him as his life falls apart. But really, considering the depths of weird creepiness that the man is capable of reaching, this feels a bit like phoning it in. Don't get me wrong, he nails this role. But it's a bit like being impressed with an Olympic gymnast for doing a really good cartwheel.

I will concede that he deserves major bonus points for his amazingly annoying and accurate (you know these people and they make you cringe too) insistence on pronouncing words like chèvre and memoir the "proper French way".

Pitt, on the other hand, is pure perfection as the carefree gym-rat (read: idiot) sidekick to Frances McDormand's plastic surgery obsessed Linda Litzke, a simple woman trapped in an elaborate game of international espionage that is entirely of her own invention.

There are some laugh out loud moments, and one or two instances of unsettlingly out of place violence, but on the whole the film is good-but-not-great. I don't say this because No Country For Old Men blew everyone's minds last year and now the bar's been set too high. For me it just falls into the Coen-crime/suspense film versus the Coen-comedy. I love the former and find the latter almost always good ... but not great. And yes, that includes Raising Arizona.

9 comments:

jeff said...

I'm going to give you until seven thirty tonight (so that's an hour and a half) to apologize to RAISING ARIZONA.

aaron said...

she's right. it's time for you to admit that to yourself.

jeff said...

Wrong. It's got endless rewatchability for me.

I can't believe you guys.

mike said...

pitt's totally phoning in his 12 monkeys performance, the script just disguises the fact.

and big lebowski is the measuring stick for comedies.

aaron said...

sounds like someone loves drugs.

mike said...

right now i'm just trying to figure out if i like drugs just more or just less than i like you.

aaron said...

most people go with "more."

katarina said...

Actually I had forgotten that I really enjoyed The Big Lebowski when it came out, but I don't know if I'd go so far as to measure anything by it, other than the unfortunate decline of Jeff Bridges' career.

Michael said...

Jeff, I totally got your back, man. Kat was and continues to be out-of line!

I do not see the attraction to Big Lebowski though. And I'm not into drugs.