Friday, September 19, 2008

Burn After Reading, best since Lebowski

Went to see the new Coen bros. film Burn After Reading this week. Now, the Coen bros and I have a storied history. Some of their films I love (The Big Lebowski, O Brother Where Art Tho, Fargo, The Hudsucker Proxy) while others I don't enjoy so much (Blood Simple, Barton Fink, Intolerable Cruelty.) Not that most of those are exactly BAD movies, I just don't enjoy them. Quirk of my personality.

Burn After Reading is in the first category. Its dark, yes. But its the funniest take on spy culture ever. Instead of being about an uber-spy that seems to be able to find everything out and is ultra-competent, it is instead about a group of rambling idiots that couldn't find their grocery list if it was stapled to their forehead. Most of the group (with notable exceptions) are likeable bumbling idiots tho, so that's ok.

Clooney gives his usual great performance, complete with an odd obsession with wood flooring. Pitt is the best I've seen him since Fight Club (or maybe 12 Monkeys). His character is spot on and cracked me up more than any other - and I'm not usually a Brad Pitt fan. Francis McDormand shows once again her amazing acting chops and reminds me that not all actresses are amazingly beautiful and under 30. Malkovitch is a total and complete jerk, and Tilda Swinton is the best (or worst) English upper-middleclass stereotype I've seen.

The "supporting" cast deserves a mention here to, as they have to deal with all these loonies. Especially happy for me to see was David Rasche (best known to me as Sledge Hammer, a great mostly forgotten 80's comedy cop show) and J.K. Simmons (best known to everyone as J. Jonah Jameson, aka Spiderman's boss). Simmons is basically doing Jameson over again, but he's so entertaining at it that it makes it all worthwhile.

The writing and directing are, not surprise, superb. I don't even have anything to add.

Despite darkness (and it is dark) this is the funniest Coen film since Lebowski. I'm going to see this one in the theater again. One note: more than any of their comedies, if you're easily offended and/or shocked, don't see this. It is offensive and shocking. And hilarious.

I always find it much harder to review films I really liked than I really hated. The most I can say is that the thing that Clooney is building in the basement is ... pretty shocking.

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