Saw Intolerable Cruelty last night with SL. I can't figure out why the reviews have been so mixed; I think it's the Coens' second funniest movie (after, of course, the insuperable Big Lebowski), and probably the funniest movie I've seen, period, since Adaptation.
The Coens have toned down their distinctive style quite a bit, and yet this movie's getting mediocre reviews from the same critics who used to complain about their allegedly stupid stylistic tics. How conventionally does a movie have to be shot before it makes these people happy?
And I don't understand --- indeed, I have never understood --- the chorus of perennial complaints that the Coens indulge in too much reflexive irony, i.e. they ask us to laugh at their characters, rather than with them. Maybe it's a generational thing? To me (and, I suspect, virtually everyone who's roughly my age --- I've literally never spoken to anyone in their 20's who doesn't like Lebowski), there's no bright shining line between irony and sincerity; the two bleed into each other like yin and yang. So what if you're giggling throughout Miles Massey's Faustian confrontation with his boss Herb Myerson? So what if you guffaw when Walter flubs the disposal of Donny's ashes? Does the laughter really subtract from the pathos, or does it sharpen it?
Plus, comparisons to old classics like The Lady Eve and Trouble in Paradise remind me of those Baby Boomers who are perpetually going on about how Bob Dylan's the greatest bard of the century and all the rock music today just can't ever measure up. Hey, guys and gals, maybe there's actually something a little different going on here? Granted, not completely different, but at least something worth judging on its own terms?
And, finally: George Clooney is awesome. Can any other living actor so effectively combine leading-man charisma with dead-on comic timing and an unwavering willingness to be vulnerable or silly or just plain dumb? If he were a little less incredible, straight men the world over would have to hate him for being so perfect. As it is, I can only admire him for being even better than perfect.