Intolerable Cruelty

Critics Consensus

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

75%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 186

48%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 66,666

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Movie Info

Miles Massey (George Clooney) is an exceptional divorce lawyer who specializes in saving cheating husbands from having to pay expensive settlements. Unchallenged, he wearies of his life -- until he meets the cunning Marylin Rexroth (Catherine Zeta-Jones). When Massey's representation of her husband in court denies her any divorce compensation, Marylin vows to get revenge, enlisting the help of an oil baron (Billy Bob Thornton), and the two vie for the advantage in a flirtatious duel of wits.

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Critic Reviews for Intolerable Cruelty

All Critics (186) | Top Critics (45) | Fresh (140) | Rotten (46)

Audience Reviews for Intolerable Cruelty

  • May 27, 2015
    Screwball comedy. The words alone, so often said with admiration and esteem, the item itself so little seen, its akin to invoking "Shangri-La", and yet here is the real deal, unexpected particularly for the casting of its chief stars. Somehow I don't think of them when I consider that ethereal quality known as talent. Yet it's here, witty dialogue delivered with verve. Commentary on not just the culture of the uber-rich lifestyle that is Beverly Hills, but also on our national obsession with money in particular, that fat baby: greed ("if I don't get more right now of whatever it is I want I'm gonna cry very loudly!"). Very good work.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Jun 06, 2014
    Yeah, just in case "The Man Who Wasn't There" was a little too surprisingly serious for you Coen brothers fans out there, Joel and Ethan decided to go all-out with a palette cleanser and follow that with an all-out romantic-comedy, of all things. ...Well, it's a black comedy, and the Coens' black comedies are usually the ones with the most murder and intrigue, but no, this film isn't that exciting, and yet, it's still a little more exciting than "The Man Who Wasn't There". Now, that's not to say that I like this nearly as much as "The Man Who Wasn't There", but it's hard to get bored when George Clooney is charming up the joint, while Catherine Zeta-Jones evidently shops at clothes stores whose shirts and blouses never feature necks, and Cedric the Entertainer shows up somewhere along the way. Cedric must have misunderstood what people meant when they said that the Coens were working on a new "black" comedy, because I don't know how he ended up working with the Coen brothers, although the Coens do seem to be trying a little too hard to be mainstream with this film. Some must be disappointed to find the Coens conforming to Hollywood conventions, and I'd imagine every one of those people neglected to check the gross revenues of this rom-com and the gritty period noir "The Man Who Wasn't There" and see which one made a little over $101,000,000 more. Even the Coens got to make some money, my friends, but hey, if they're going to, they may as well make a decent film along the way... or get Catherine Zeta-Jones to wear a bunch of shirts and blouses that don't have necks. Well, sure enough, the Coens succeed in making some pretty fun fluff, in spite of some slow spells. The Coens are no strangers to slow storytelling (*cough*"Blood*cough*Sim*cough*ple*cough*ton"*cough*), but their dry spells typically derive from a thoughtfulness that certainly doesn't have a place in this type of effort, so there's no excuse for occasions that, while far from tedious, drag their feet in scripting, and are made all the more distancing by quiet atmospheric cold spells. Of course, more often than it hits slow spells, the film gets to be frantic, not so much in its pace, but in dialogue that has a tendency to take on that classic Coen snap at its most exhaustingly busy, resulting in some seriously obnoxious set pieces that isn't helped by characters who are obnoxious to begin with. I criticize the dialogue for getting frantic, but there are, in fact, some points in which structural pace is picked up a little bit, to the detriment of, if nothing else, exposition, for although there shouldn't be much depth to this particular Coen comedy, like, at all, the characters are thin, with unlikable aspects that are hard to embrace in the context of a narrative that is hard enough to embrace by its own right. The plot is utterly improbable in more than a few ways, and I reckon that's intentional, yet moments in which the Coens go well beyond the top make it more difficult to deny the cheesiness of this hopelessly mainstream dark comedy that would be worth embracing if it wasn't also derivative. They've hit their formulaic occasions, but the Coens, more than that, have surprised, if not innovated time and again with storytelling, yet here, the only surprise is that there's hardly anything new to this lazily mainstream narrative, as if the Coens ultimately chose to give up on fleshing out this story concept as a film of greater quality. "The Big Lebowski" and "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" rank among the Coens' most conceptually inconsequential opuses, yet they somehow ended up also up their among the filmmakers' best, the Coens placed so much inspiration into crafting strong films through all of the fluff, which, in this case, triumphs intensely, with a frantic, improbable cheesiness that renders the final product not simply underwhelming, but barely memorable. Of course, there are indeed traits in this film that are reasonably worth remembering, as they craft a generally fun affair that even comes with a hint of artistic integrity. The Coens recruit recurring collaborators Carter Burwell and Roger Deakins, who have delivered time and again on unique and inspired score work and cinematography, and are, of course, held back from really fleshing out their artistic vision for this film, which still has highlights in which Burwell delivers on colorful, classically-charged scoring, while Deakins delivers on clean, sometimes memorably distinguished cinematography. Style is limited, but it stands, and the Coens make sure that you don't forget that, because even though their direction is a little flimsy, as well as particularly under-inspired to begin with, they keep momentum generally smooth, with an energetic sense of color that is even sharper in the Coens' less unevenly structured writing. With that said, Joel and Ethan Coen get to be mighty messy even with their scripting, but if there is any kind of razor-sharp wit to this overly mainstream affair, it is found within the Coens' snappy, if a little busy dialogue and audaciously, if not shamelessly over-the-top comic set pieces. There plenty of fun notes to the Coens' script, and they do justice to a certain fun factor to subject matter that, no matter how improbable, formulaic and altogether near-cloyingly mainstream, has plenty of fluffy value that is kept adequately lively by highlights in the Coens' storytelling, but truly anchored by a cast that is perhaps more respectable than it ought to be for a film of its time. You know that it was Coens' name that made a cast this solid come calling, but now that it's here, each member, despite being unevenly used, charms, whether it be Billy Bob Thornton as the charismatic and fast-talking southwestern man of business, or Edward Herrmann as an awkwardly anxious man who cannot afford a divorce, or Cedric the Entertainer as a delightfully smooth and proud private investigator, or Paul Adelstein as the near-adorable right-hand to George Clooney's hardened role. Speaking of Clooney, it is he and the stunning Catherine Zeta-Jones who really deliver, for although the leads' roles are written with their share of unlikable traits, their individual portrayers consistently endear with an effectively snaky charisma that is punctuated by some sympathetic layers, and bonded through a rocky chemistry which makes the leads' relationship something of a treat to watch as it twists and turns. The film is a mess at the end of the day, but for what it is, it charms thoroughly throughout its course, thanks to lively performances on and off the screen that make a fun, if somewhat flat fluff piece. When the suffering is finished, slow spells find themselves broken up by obnoxiously frantic points which join thin characterization, improbability and genericism in reflecting a fluffy thinness that renders the final product, underwhelming, if not forgettable, in spite of the striking scoring and cinematographic highlights, lively direction, colorful writing, and thoroughly charismatic cast - from which George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones stand out, partly with their effective chemistry - that make "Intolerable Cruelty" a generally fun hyper-mainstream, if under-inspired Coen brothers endeavor. 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Jan 08, 2014
    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.
    Clintus M Super Reviewer
  • Aug 12, 2013
    A bad Coen brothers film is still a good film nonetheless. Nothing they make is ever entirely unwatchable. 'Intolerable Cruelty' isn't Joel and Ethan at the top of their game and is incredibly uneven, but it's still fairly middle-of-the-road entertainment. The humor (which pokes fun at the wealthy Beverly Hills community) is sharp and full of wit, and there are several laugh-out-loud moments, but the real comedy comes from the performances, which are zany and charismatic and reminiscent of the screwball comedies of the 30s and the 40s.
    Stephen E Super Reviewer

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