A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Burn After Reading

December 9, 2010

Burn After Reading

Who but the Coen Brothers could concoct a depressing comedy? A depressing confusing comedy intrigue mystery. Or whatever. I’ll admit that I simply don’t know what this movie is. Except a Coen Brothers film. It refuses to be classified. Mostly because we as viewers don’t actually have much idea what is going on most of the time.

A lot of things happen in this movie, and they all are somehow related to each other. There’s a CIA analyst who quits his job in a rage after being demoted for mysterious reasons. There’s his dissatisfied wife who is having an affair and wants a divorce. There’s the philandering womanizer having the affair with the analyst’s wife who seems unable to turn down an opportunity for a conquest but who actually loves his wife. There’s a disk full of files from the analyst’s home computer which gets inadvertently left at a health club. There’s the sadly desperate health club worker who wants to re-make her life. There’s her completely stupid co-worker. There’s her boss who has an unrequited crush on her which she totally doesn’t notice. And all of them are being watched and followed by mysterious people.

There are funny bits. There are suspenseful bits. There are many upsetting bits with people’s dreams falling apart around them. There are gruesomely violent bits. All somehow blended into a cohesive whole that is actually funny. For some reason.

I pity the poor ad executive who was handed this peculiar movie and had to find a way to sell it. I also completely understand the confusion of moviegoers and my customers at Blockbuster who watched this expecting a rip-roaring madcap comedy along the lines of Raising Arizona because that’s the way it was marketed. It is not that movie and was never going to be that movie.

Much of the marketing ended up trying to pitch the movie by concentrating on the astonishing cast, and how can you really blame them? This movie is packed to the gills with great stars and every one of them delivers a fantastic performance. Brad Pit and George Cloony provide most of the comedy in the movie, Pit by depicting the biggest moron involved in a caper movie since Ruthless People, and Cloony by wonderfully depicting a man slowly being driven insane by his own paranoia. Frances McDormand is fantastic as always portraying the always optimistic but somewhat insecure Linda Litzke. John Malkovich is the pitiable but also pretty vulgar and angry Osborn Cox. His wife Katie is played with panache by Tilda Swinton, who describes her character as “very disappointed” in one of the making of documentaries on the disk. There’s Richard Jenkins as the forlorn gym manager Ted. And capping things off there’s J.K. Simmons as the befuddled CIA supervisor trying to understand all this lunacy. His two scenes in the movie really define the entire thing and help to settle the audience. He seems to be in the movie pretty much to say “hey, it’s okay to be confused by this stuff that’s going on – we are too.”

“Jesus what a clusterfuck,” says Simmons’ character, “fucked if I know what we did.” And that sums up the movie pretty well. If you go into it knowing that it’s a quirky, odd, strangely humorous “tragicomedy” – from the minds of the Coen Brothers – then you will probably enjoy it. If you’re into that sort of thing. Which we are.

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December 9, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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