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Intolerable Cruelty (2003)



Average Rating: 6.8/10
Reviews Counted: 180
Fresh: 135 | Rotten: 45

Though more mainstream than other Coen films, there are still funny oddball touches, and Clooney and Zeta-Jones sizzle like old-time movie stars.


Average Rating: 6.7/10
Critic Reviews: 44
Fresh: 33 | Rotten: 11

Though more mainstream than other Coen films, there are still funny oddball touches, and Clooney and Zeta-Jones sizzle like old-time movie stars.



liked it
Average Rating: 2.9/5
User Ratings: 65,815

My Rating

Movie Info

Joel and Ethan Coen take on the classic battle-of-the-sexes screwball comedy with Intolerable Cruelty. George Clooney plays Miles Massey, a high-powered Los Angeles divorce lawyer nearing a midlife crisis . While representing wealthy client Rex Rexroth (Edward Herrmann), Miles meets his match in Rex's gold-digging wife, Marilyn Rexroth (Catherine Zeta-Jones). He's impressed by her similarly heartless ways of using marriage to fuel an expensive lifestyle, but he still defeats her in court. With


Comedy, Romance

Robert Ramsey, Matthew Stone, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Feb 10, 2004


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All Critics (184) | Top Critics (44) | Fresh (135) | Rotten (45) | DVD (24)

Here's an anomaly: a comedy about smart people.

October 13, 2009 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The Coens do an efficient job of stamping their signature grotesquerie on sumptuous Beverly Hills and Las Vegas settings and ladling on gallows humor and malice, sometimes with the verve of early Robert Zemeckis.

November 7, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader | Comments (3)
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Inventive and hilarious.

February 9, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The Coen Brothers do provide enough of a diversion with bits and pieces of wacko casting, and with the deranged details of dress and makeup of their fleeting gargoyles, to make the proceedings at least moderately amusing.

October 23, 2003 Full Review Source: New York Observer
New York Observer
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This dim-witted, mean-spirited and brain-dead calamity should surprise no one.

October 16, 2003 Full Review Source: New York Observer
New York Observer
Top Critic IconTop Critic

[T]here's a lot of problems with the script, and some of the stuff with Edward Herrmann I don't think works at all, it's not funny it just kind of falls flat. But Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones, I think they deliver enough to say it's worth seeing.

October 13, 2003 Full Review Source: Ebert & Roeper
Ebert & Roeper
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Screwball comedy for older teens and adults.

December 24, 2010 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

A competent bit of work from which striking originality and idiosyncrasy have mostly been pruned away.

May 6, 2008 Full Review Source: Style Weekly (Richmond, VA)

This is the Coens dabbling in the mainstream, and bending it to their will.

September 24, 2007 Full Review Source:

The Coensâ(TM) first mainstream romantic comedy is a superb hijacking of an ailing art form -- short, sharp and frequently laugh-out-loud hilarious.

December 30, 2006 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

As Miles, Clooney doesn't make any direct emotional appeal to the audience and yet his high style is so smashingly effective that Miles stands open to us: macher, lover, patsy.

September 26, 2006 Full Review Source:

Destined to rank among the Coens' least memorable achievements.

December 6, 2005 Full Review Source: Film Threat
Film Threat

A great movie.

December 6, 2005 Full Review Source: Film Threat
Film Threat

A fun romp, thanks largely to the deft work of its two leads.

March 5, 2005 Full Review Source: NYC Film Critic
NYC Film Critic

[Ce film] est tout ce que l'on ne veut pas voir les Coen faire dans leur futur, mais aussi le genre de comédie romantique que l'on souhaiterait voir plus souvent.

December 16, 2004

The script is whip-smart. The Coens come closer to the zaniness of their greatest comedy, Raising Arizona, then they have in all of their movies since then.

December 6, 2004 Full Review Source: Looking Closer
Looking Closer

Despite the inconsistent script and low tone, this has many funny moments. If you can forget the negative view it takes of mankind, itâ(TM)s entertaining because of the performances of Clooney, Zeta Jones, and the rest of the cast.

October 7, 2004 Full Review Source:

The Coens ... have taken a typically trite target for ridicule and splayed it out for an attack from outer space, where Coen brothers scripts tend to originate.

September 20, 2004
Tyler Morning Telegraph (Texas)

Has worthwhile moments, including an excellent performance by [George] Clooney, but the plotting is contrived.

June 4, 2004

...less than tolerable when it takes a turn into Blood Simple. The outright winner is Clooney, whose cheery star appeal keeps getting brighter and brighter.

February 9, 2004 Full Review Source: Boulder Weekly

Half the pleasure of Intolerable Cruelty is watching the Coens play it safe

February 1, 2004 Full Review Source: Film Freak Central
Film Freak Central

A date-movie with brain cells.

January 15, 2004 Full Review Source: Guardian

Viewers won't feel like they've been dealt with too cruelly.

January 15, 2004 Full Review Source: eye WEEKLY

Audience Reviews for Intolerable Cruelty

I was not expecting this gem; it was very funny and subtle in a way that only the Coen brothers can pull off. Its almost as entertaining as the Coens' "O Brother Where Art Thou," which also stars George Clooney. The balance between love and manipulation has never been funnier; it's a romantic black comedy if that makes any sense.
Clooney as divorce attorney Miles Massey is flawless, as is Catherine Zeta-Jones as conniving goldigger Marilyn Rexroth. CZJ is as funny as she is beautiful, definitely underrated as an actress. Its got a wonderful supporting cast: Cedric the Entertainer, Edward Hermann, and especially Julia Duffy-perfectly cast.
Stereotypes are skewered, and deception and hustling run rampant. God knows matrimonial attorneys deserve this treatment. If you missed this excellent film at theaters years ago, watch it now. I promise you'll love it.
January 8, 2014
Clintus M.
Clintus Maximus

Super Reviewer

Funny comedy about a divorce lawyer falling for a gold digger. Great chemistry between George and Catherine. George is brilliant at the slapstick comedy. Billy Bob Thorton is very funny.
October 6, 2013
Candy Rose

Super Reviewer

I am giving this a recommendation, but a minor one. The movie is uneven, and the script is quite weak, but the movie, like all Coen Bros. films, is still interesting, no matter how many flaws exist within. It is a quirky take on the screwball comedies of the 1930's/40's, and there are some great moments within, along with some fine performances.

The film is about a slick divorce attorney who begins to fall apart when he falls in love with a gorgeous, but scheming gold digger. Like I said, the script is weak, but I blame it on the two co-writers whose last names are not Coen. That's the troubling thing about this one: I can't really tell how much of this is the Coens, and how much isn't.

It does have its moments, but overall, it doesn't really feel like a true work from Joel and Ethan. I still kind of like this however, but it is easily their weakest film, and my least favorite. Maybe it's okay though. I know that not everyone bats 1,000, but at least we know for a fact that the Coens picked themselves way up after this minor effort.
August 27, 2013
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

Miles Massey: I saw an ad in the paper. "No-fault divorce. Two week divorce without a lawyer". Made me sick to my stomach. No-fault divorce.

"Engage the enemy."

Intolerable Cruelty was one of the few Coen brother films I had yet to see. It's also one of their less popular ones and after watching it, I fail to see why. I guess I have affection for what is considered their lesser works such as this and The Hudsucker Proxy. All in all I thought this was an incredibly smart, well put together film that had all the Coen's wackiness in a different kind of setting. The movie is odd in about every sense. From scenes of crazy dramatic over the top-ness such as the court room scenes to bizarre supporting characters that yell such stuff as, "I just love trains(sexual innuendo possibly, haha)." 

Miles Massey is a divorce lawyer, and he's the best at what he does. He can win cases that he has no right to win just because he knows how the game works. On the other side of the fence is Marilyn, she's a devoted divorcee; meaning she finds rich men, marries them and divorces them for their money. The whole film is set in a lawyer/divorced couples setting, if that makes sense at all. What makes the whole thing go down perfectly is the Coen's ability to pull off all the brilliant wackiness that comes standard for them in a romantic comedy, albeit a Coen romantic comedy, which plays more like an anti-romantic, romantic comedy.

The acting was spot on as always with Coen's cast. Clooney is brilliant as Miles, and Catherine Zeta Jones is stunning, charming, and impressive as Marilyn. Cedric the Entertainer, Geoffrey Rush, and Billy Bob Thornton all pull off very interesting, but small supporting roles. 

Intolerable Cruelty is another Coen brothers film that I just fell in love with. It was brilliant fun from start to finish. Perfect, quick, intelligent dialogue, surrounded by incredible performances with direction and screenplay from two of the most original, creative, and brilliant filmmakers ever.... What the fuck isn't to like?
August 15, 2013
Melvin White

Super Reviewer

Movies Like Intolerable Cruelty

    1. Gus Petch: You want tact you call a tactician. You want an ass nailed you call Gus Petch.
    – Submitted by Jon K (14 months ago)
    1. Gus Petch: I'm gonna nail your ass!
    – Submitted by Brendan C (21 months ago)
    1. Gus Petch: Yep, I nailed his ass.
    – Submitted by Brendan C (21 months ago)
    1. Miles Massey: You are a carnivore?
    2. Marylin Rexroth: [laughing] Oh, Mr. Massey. You have *no* *idea*.
    – Submitted by Jane M (2 years ago)
    1. Miles Massey: Do we council fear or trust? Do we seek to destroy or build?
    – Submitted by Tomas K (2 years ago)
View all quotes (5)

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Foreign Titles

  • Ein (un)möglicher Härtefall (DE)
  • Intolérable cruauté (FR)
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