Fresh off their Oscar winning film ‘No Country for Old Men’, Joel and Ethan Coen go back to their off-beat comedic ways with ‘Burn After Reading’. For those of you who have followed the Coens with films such as ‘The Big Lebowski’ and ‘Raising Arizona’ you will be pleased that they have decided to go back to that genre, however where they scored with their previous films they tend to miss with this one.
The film starts out with Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) being demoted from his job with the CIA, he ultimately decides to quit and write a memoir about his life, which doesn’t set to well with his uptight wife, Katie (Tilda Swinton), who unbeknownst to him is having an affair with Harry, (George Clooney) while his wife is out promoting the children’s books that she writes. As Oz and Katie’s marriage grows further apart, she begins to sort out their financials (including much of Oz’s CIA info). She puts them on a disc to give to her lawyer.
The Lawyer ultimately loses this disc at her local gym and it falls in the hands of two not so bright gym employees, Linda (Frances McDormand) and Chad (Brad Pitt). They see it as something much bigger, and plan to blackmail Osbourne so that they can get ransom and pay for the cosmetic surgery that Linda so desperately feels she needs. This is where all the chaos starts as all these characters become intertwined.
The Coen Bros have always been good at throwing us curve balls, which is why I will not go any further into the plot as it’s impossible not to give away any spoilers. My only problem with this film is while it has great intentions, it falls short with some uninteresting characters. Chad and Linda are by far the most interesting, and McDormand and Pitt give the best performances in the film. Chad who’s a gym freak that rides his bike to work, swears like a sailor and prefers his gym gear to suits an ties, and Linda, an insecure single who wants surgery to look better and dates online. She eventually finds Harry (Clooney) online, which besides a hilarious midnight phone call to Osbourne is how the characters come together.
The cast is great, lots of Oscar winners/nominees (and a lovely little part by the always enjoyable JK Simmons) but the script fails to grab anyone’s attention until 30 minutes into the movie, an while the ending might be a surprise to most it is a typical Coen ending. Which in this case is getting rather old. It has some interesting parts, but the majority of the film you may be wondering how people could actually be so clueless.
3 out of 5 Stars.
Memorable Quote from film: “Osbourne Cox…we have….your sh*t” - Chad, as played by Brad Pitt