I usually stay away from romantic comedy, but Intolerable Cruelty pulled me in thanks to the Coen Brothers being the directors at the helm. Add a sprinkle of George Clooney and I’m on it. Not him though, don’t even think about it! Or I’ll nail your ass.
The story is one not much about love. Miles Massey (George Clooney), top divorce attorney, spends his time successfully destroying his opponents in court no matter how guilty his clients actually are, but is growing bored with the lack of challenge. Marilyn Rexroth (Catherine Zeta-Jones) steps into his life though and a new challenge opens up as he goes off to prove her cheating husband to be the victim. Both characters are pretty selfish and greedy, so we watch it all unfold with a sense of disconnection. We see how one attempts to outdo another and it shows the ugly side of humans. In a fun, slapstick way of course. Intolerable Cruelty is a fun film which sometimes over steps into stupidity, but largely keeps things fast, tight and smart. Stupid smart.
Miles eventually becomes infatuated with Marilyn and this is where the romance comes into play, though only loosely as we see some twists and turns thanks to the ‘Massey Pre-nup’ plot point. The ‘Massey Pre-nup’ is a document designed by Miles himself which makes it impossible either in the marriage to obtain the others wealth through divorce. As long as the document is intact there is no hope of swindling, but of course that is as long as it remains intact. For the second act we see how Marilyn plays a smart game to get back at Miles and it is a pretty clever twist using the fictional document. There are certain holes in intelligence however regarding how Massey researches things, but it doesn’t matter too much thanks to the excitement it all brings.
Unfortunately I feel the ending lets things down. The final act brings the battle between Miles and Marilyn to a climax, and the climax is a mix of ridiculous and hilarious. It just seems unfortunate that the love has to seep through and bring a rather corny ending to it all. A battle between two despicable people is all we need, not true love. A cop out maybe, but the lonely gold diggers, wheezing assassins and Massey Pre-nup mess up plans are still there to create a bizarre yet clever comedy.