Saturday, September 13, 2008

Burn After Reading

Alright, it's not a play, but with Ethan Coen having had a play Off-Broadway this past spring and theatre stalwarts like Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Elizabeth Marvel, and David Rasche in the cast, I think it falls under the purview of this blog. So there.

Overall, very worth seeing--it's a kick to see such generally serious actors given the chance to cut loose and give such aggressively stylized performances. I particularly enjoyed Malkovich's apoplectic alcoholic CIA agent and Pitt's empty-headed personal trainer. And seeing George Clooney and Tilda Swinton in bed together after their decidedly less friendly relationship in Michael Clayton (a movie I also highly recommend).

The story is satisfying in its twists and turns, even though they make minimal sense. The movie maintains its lighthearted tone throughout, even after the lurch into violence that is predictable given the Coen's past work but shocking in the movie.

Even after the violence, however, the movie doesn't have much impact beyond laughter. None of the characters live in three dimensions, and there is only so much we can care about even the most vivid caricature. This may have been the Coen's intention--without characters who we care about, the violence stays funny, and the whole bizarre story is nothing more than a goof. This isn't necessarily a bad thing--it would have been an extremely unpleasant movie if the worst things that happened were serious. Still, those who prefer their movies less mean-spirited might want to avoid this one.

It's probably not classic Coen, but for those looking for a nasty little joke, it's a great time.

No comments: