Friday, September 12, 2008
Burn after Reading-- 'A Confederacy of Dunces'
I must admit to enjoying the black humor and satire of the Coen brothers, at least in small doses. 'O Brother Where Art Thou...' is just hysterical. And honestly the Coen brothers have not done anything that good since, though I will say that 'Burn after Reading' has its moments, and hilarious scenes. It comes at us from the "And Now for Something Completely Different school of film making.
First of all some particulars. This is a spy spoof, not of the slapstick sort but of the farcical or satirical sort. George Clooney has said that this is the third in his trilogy of playing characters that are "as dumb as a bag of hammers". But in this movie, that pretty much characterizes every single caricatured person. Even the characters which are well educated are truly unwise in the ways of love, and it is this latter theme that the Coen's play up to such good effect.
The cast is all star to the max--- George Clooney, Brad Pitt, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, and Frances McDormand, and they all play their parts brilliantly. And there are some superb cameo roles played as well by fine actors. And the movie moves along at a brisk pace, clocking in at under two hours quite nicely. It begins abruptly and ends abruptly. We have the ominous forboding musical score, the interesting camera angles, and, as has come to be expected in the Coen brothers movies, stupid violence (which is being ridiculed no doubt) and a dose of the F and S words sprinkled in for those who are vocabulary challenged. It is apparently chiefly the latter and the bits of senseless violence (and one dildo) that seem to have earned the movie its R rating. This is an adult movie, and much of the nuance will go right over the heads of children. Don't take them to it.
Without question the one character who most steals the show, and is the source of constant laughter amongst the audience when I saw the film is Brad Pitt, playing Chad, the personal trainer at Hard Bodies who has nary a brain in his noggin. He's sort of a male version spoof of the old valley girls caricature-- fur sure totally to the max. But a close second is Francis McDormand who plays his co-worker and partner in crime prepared to commit Federal crimes in order to get that cosmetic surgery she so longs for. Pitt and McDormand attempt to blackmail a medium level CIA analyst (played effectively by Malkovich) with hilarious and disasterous results. As for George Clooney-- he gives the Treasury Department a bad name. Here is a short list of the things spoofed and the subject of satire:
1)the CIA and all the top secret spy skullduggery stuff
2) making connections over the Internet in order to find love, which is portrayed as pathetic and "looking for love in all the wrong places"
3) the empty, lonely life of socialites in D.C.
4) the equally empty life of those who run fitness centers
5) the whole nasty business of surveillance
6) getting wealthy off of children, namely by writing children's books
7) divorce lawyers (need I say more)
8) male bonding cameraderie of the Ivy League, dining club sort (in this case Princeton is spoofed), and I could go on.
The plot, both thickens and sickens, as the various characters swirl around Clooney like moths to a flame, as he is the one person who interacts, interfaces, and yes, in the case of the women intercourses with them all. Clooney plays the dumb lethario to good effect, who, only too late realizes that he is being watched, though not all of his liasons are in on the plot to get him!
It has been quite the while since we have had an interesting, or even entertaining movie, and this one is both, in spurts. Some of the scenes just produce belly laughs, especially the Pitt scenes. He's so dumb, it hurts to watch him mess up his own life. I doubt this movie will get many best pictures nods this year, but there will be some acting nominations. If you like soap opera farces with a script or repartee that could have partly been written by Adam Sorkin, then this is the movie for you. Its been a long gap since the Dark Knight came on the screen. As it happens, the next good movie to come along is a dark comedy... now how did that story go as Snoppy told it 'It was a dark and stormy night. A shot range out. Suddenly a woman screamed.....' well, you know the rest.