Saturday, September 13, 2008

Weekend Pursuits, Vol. 1

The Coen Brothers' new film, "Burn After Reading," was released on Friday, so my first order of weekend business was catching the new dark comedy after work last night.

My favorite Coen movies are "Miller's Crossing," "No Country for Old Men," "The Big Lebowski," "Fargo" and "O Brother Where Art Thou."

While there are elements of comedy in those films, they're primarily dramas or, at least, not "screwball" comedies.

My least favorite Coen pictures are "Raising Arizona" and "Barton Fink" (even though the latter is still a very accomplished movie), and so it was with a mix of excitement ("A new Coen Brothers film!") and apprehension ("Why are the actors behaving so weirdly in the trailer?") that I made the drive to the theater last night.

Long story short: "Burn After Reading" is an incredibly dark comedy about human foibles, the lies we tell ourselves, and the adventures of a bunch of Beltway knuckleheads who have to be seen to be believed.

On the plus side: Terrific performances by a volcanic John Malkovich as a recently fired CIA analyst; an icy Tilda Swinton as his fed-up wife; a rascally George Clooney as a philandering federal marshal with commitment issues; an earnestly sad Richard Jenkins as a health club manager with an unrequited flame; and a bemused David Rasche and J.K. Simmions as a CIA manager and boss, respectively.

On the downside: The overly bufoonish and cartoonish performances turned in by Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt, no doubt at the behest of the Coens. These two are right out of "Raising Arizona" (not a good thing, for me), and I couldn't help but keep wishing they were allowed to play their roles (relatively) straight.

That said, a highly enjoyable time at the movies, nonetheless.

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