Sunday, October 26, 2008

Burn After Reading (2008)

* * * *

Leave it to the Coen brothers to follow up last year's best film, No Country for Old Men, with a film as quirky and off-the-wall as Burn After Reading. Ten years after the Big Lebowski followed their finest film, Fargo, the Coen's churn out another comedy with bizarre characters and situations, grim humor, and an outlandish premise. The Coens enlisted a star-studded cast including Brad Pitt, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, J.K. Simmons, Richard Jenkins and Coen-veterans Francis McDormand and George Clooney for their highly anticipated follow up. The story revolves around Chad (Pitt) and and Linda (McDormand) who stumble across a CD with government files that belongs to Malkovich's character Osbourne Cox, and attempt to use their discovery to get some cash out of Cox for Linda's plastic surgery. And that's only the half of it. The situations that arise are both outrageously funny and at times disturbingly sad. The dialogue is sharp and creates memorable characters, even in Coen brothers terms, especially Pitt's Chad which is easily the funniest performance of his career. All of the actors step into characters far from their typical roles and sell them completely. The film has definitive Coen style; quick and to the point with little waste. Like all of their films, Burn After Reading is full of cynical humor that points out flaws in society, and this film does so perhaps more than any of their others. The Coens are some of the only filmmakers who have the cojones to make a film like this to follow a Best Picture winner and to follow the ending of No Country for Old Men with the conclusion to this film. Some may be surprised or even disappointed with the obvious indulgence the brothers took in making such an eccentric film, but Burn After Reading is a lot of fun. It has its flaws, but just like its characters, in the end there is more to laugh about than to be turned off by, and the film is very successful as a satire of American culture and politics.

Good for: Coen Brothers fans, Brad Pitt fans, fans of dark comedies

Bad for: people who like straight-forward comedy, the easily disturbed

The Gallery
The Economist: * * * *
The Surfer: * * * *
The Film Maker: * * * *

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