Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Burn After Reading

"Burn After Reading" is Joel and Ethan Coen's (as people call it) "dark comedy" of 2008, a film that is pulled off with such genius and wit that we take the assorted tomfoolery in stride. It has a cast of dreams: George Clooney, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Brad Pitt, and Tilda Swinton, not to mention Richard Jenkins and J.K. Simmons in funny supporting roles. Malkovich plays Osbourne Cox, a dismissed CIA analyst who dictates his experiences and compiles them into an audio-memoir. This somehow turns up on the floor in the ladies locker room at Hardbodies Gym. The somewhat dim-witted individuals who work here are McDormand as plastic-surgery desiring Linda, and Brad Pitt in his funniest and best role to date as Chad Feldheimer. Their manager is a man of good intentions, Ted, played by Jenkins. Clooney and Swinton are lovers who are having an affair, Harry Pfarrer and Katie Cox (yes, she is married unhappily to Osbourne). Pfarrer is married to Sandy (Elizabeth Marvel), an author of bizarre children's books about the senate that only the Coen Brothers could come up with. But the oddities of this film is the fun. Pitt's hilarious performance is so dumb that without the rest of the cast he would have been mediocre. McDormand is the main source of support, and she's also good. I think that Malkovich gets runner-up to Pitt for best performance, as a raging, axe-wielding lunatic who attended Princeton. Clooney is a close third, as he turns in a good comedic performance and does what he can do with the conscientious operative that he plays. The big winners, though, are the Coen Brothers. They are consistently inventive in their humor, with all the more quirks and idiocy than in "The Big Lebowski." This film is in the same caliber. The Coens haven't dropped their style for ten years, and here's there award: a hilarious film that is definitely one of the funniest, darkest, and most idiotic films of the year, a film with Coen written all over it, which proves a lot of things. Like that Brad Pitt, the same wooden actor of "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," can carry a movie. With all due hydration, of course. B+

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