Monday, June 1, 2009

Burn After Reading (2008)

The Coen brothers are fond of murders and zany characters. This one revolves around middle-aged folks, sex and blackmail. According to Ethan Coen, it's their "Tony Scott/Bourne Identity without the explosions."

Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand) and Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt) work at Hard Bodies gym, which is managed by Ted Treffon (Richard Jenkins) who has a crush on Linda. Linda doesn't recognize Ted as a possible suitor. She's delved into the online dating scene searching for Mr. Right. Unhappy with her body ("I've gotten as far with this body as I can"), she is determined to get plastic surgery. To her chagrin, she learns her insurance won't cover the elective procedures. CIA actuary Osbourne Cox (John Malkovich) has just been fired and is considering writing a tell-all about his CIA experiences. He is unaware his wife, Katie (Tilda Swinton), is having an affair with Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney), a Treasury employee who also trolls the online profiles looking for dates while his writer wife tours, promoting her latest children's book.Disk Goooood. Hair Baaaaad. 

When a CD containing financial information and musings about political figures is found in the ladies locker room at Hard Bodies, Chad and Linda see an opportunity for a good Samaritan act they hope will be fiscally rewarded. When they approach alcoholic foul-mouthed Osbourne Cox to pay up for his disk, a battle and several plot complications ensue.

Plays like a political spoof. You get affairs, unrequited love and murder. The cast is wonderful, juxtaposing actors you wouldn't expect together on-screen with favorable results. McDormand, Pitt and Clooney really shine. J.K. Simmons as the CIA boss is terrific. His scenes are among the funniest. I don't love all Coen brothers movies, but this one is a kick in the pants you don't want to miss. Highly recommended.

Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen

Country: US

Genre: Tragicomedy

Run time:  96 minutes

Scale: 4.5

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