Thursday, 01 October 2020
Burn After Reading
Written by Sandra Fitzpatrick   
Thursday, 18 September 2008 00:00

ThumbnailI got a real cinematic treat this week! After a starvation summer diet of big budget blockbusters and fluffy comedies getting to see something as unpredictable and quirky as Burn After Reading was like sitting me in front of a big slab of cheesecake only not nearly as fattening.

Burn After Reading contains a who’s who of great actors and some Hollywood heavy hitters willing to take their commercial success down a notch for a really great role. I’m talking about Mr. Jolie himself. Brad Pitt took time away from his “It’s a Small World” collection of children to immerse himself in a character that is totally unlike the Brad we’re used to. Not to mention the consummate bachelor George Clooney who just gets better and better with age.

Burn After Reading is the latest offering from Joel and Ethan Coen, a sibling duo with a near perfect track record for making great, interesting movies. I say “near perfect” because of one little flub called The Ladykillers starring Tom Hanks, but we won’t get into that! Otherwise you can count Fargo, O Brother Where Art Thou?, and No Country For Old Men among their many memorable films. Here they come out in full force with more brilliant writing, original characters and unpredictable twists.

The story is pretty convoluted, so I won’t even attempt to explain what goes on… I also don’t want to ruin the surprises! I’ll just say that it involves blackmail and a whole lot of misunderstanding (both of which seem to be recurring themes for the Coen brothers). Burn After Reading focuses on a few connected central characters and divides the time among them, wisely giving each actor the opportunity to showcase their talents. The performances are really where it’s at in this film and you can tell the actors all reveled in their roles.

John Malkovich is riveting as usual, playing a CIA employee who gets demoted while going through mid-life crisis. Tilda Swinton plays his ice-queen wife who isn’t happy unless she’s barking orders at the various men in her life. One of the men in question is George Clooney, a philandering player who relies on the same old tricks to get what he wants.

ThumbnailFrances McDormand is one of my favorite actresses. I think she’s always fabulous, and so do the Coen’s since she’s appeared in several of their films. Here she plays a personal trainer obsessed with the idea of “reinventing” herself to catch a man. Brad Pitt plays her enthusiastic co-worker who acts as if he’s had one too many power shakes. It’s hilarious to watch him bouncing off the walls with his streaked blond metrosexual haircut.

This movie is a smart spoof on the spy-thriller genre that quickly turns to dark comedy. That being said, I think it’s accessible to a large audience and is definitely laugh-out-loud funny! A real treat for those looking to break out of the blockbuster blahs!