Posted on 1/26/11 05:55 PM
I could just throw this movie in for a good laugh and intriguing acting any time; it's simply a very, very easy film to enjoy, and the Coen's hit almost every comedic note perfectly, sometimes with deadly accuracy.
This film is about deteriorating and blossoming relationships taking place amidst the chaos of blackmail, murder, cosmetic surgery, infidelity, divorce, and internet dating; all of this is aligned with some information on a CD belonging to and ex-CIA agent (Malkovich), which may or may not have some compromising information on it.
The people mixed up in this tangle are smart, conniving, dim-witted, idiotic, desperate, free-wheeling, greedy, and everything in-between. The star-studded cast comprises of George Clooney, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, Brad Pitt, and Richard Jenkins. Nothing that the characters do is perfectly logical, but it's logical enough to be played in a straight enough way that adds to the legitimacy of the stupidity of the events occurring, without overtly falsifying them; its works a fine line between legitimacy and absurdity, for the most part very well.
Once the CIA realizes that this CD is missing, they wonder why everyone is making such a big deal out of it, and so they set their spies on various of the above listed characters, while the above listed characters do or try to do the things listed in paragraph one. In the end, some scores have been settled and some information buried, for better or worse, and everything goes on....its the conversations themselves, like the ones between the CIA upper management, is hilarious and strikingly logical in its summation of the events taking place.
More than the simple sounding film I have made Burn After Reading seem to be, it is nuanced, well-written, hilarious, shocking, improbable, and very modern. The plot dips and dives and head in weird directions that are somehow handled logically and with great humour, due to the cynical and screwball nature of the films dialogue, tone, and situations; unlike most screwballs of the past however, that poked fun at the social mores of generations past, the Coen's have updated that in to a very modern context with often insightful dialogue about this day and age . The film utilizes modern symptoms to capitalize on all the depths that the characters stereotypes can evoke. I hope our respect for this film will increase with time. The casting is superb, as is the directing and writing, and even the score and the cinematography better than average. The editing is superbly expedient, leaving very few slow moments in the 96 minutes.
I already have this listed on my Favourite films of the decade list; as well as my Favourite films of 2008 list at number ten, where I recently bumped The Visitor off my top 10 for it. I don't want to explain the story to you any further, which in this case, I think, makes perfect sense.