Intolerable Cruelty (2003)

A romantic comedy with bite.

Original Title : Intolerable Cruelty
Director : Joel Coen
Ethan Coen
Writer : Robert Ramsey
Matthew Stone
John Romano
Robert Ramsey
Matthew Stone
Ethan Coen
Joel Coen
Genre : Comedy
Country : USA
Language : English
Producer : John Cameron , Ethan Coen , Sean Daniel , Robert Graf , Brian Grazer , Grant Heslov , James Jacks , James Whitaker
Music : Carter Burwell
Photography : Roger Deakins
MPAA Rating : Rated PG-13 for sexual content, language and brief violence.
IMDB ID : 0138524
Official site :
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poster for "Intolerable Cruelty" by Joel Coen | Ethan Coen (2003)
Intolerable Cruelty (2003) - Joel Coen | Ethan Coen


┬George Clooney Miles Massey
┬Catherine Zeta-Jones Marylin Rexroth
┬Geoffrey Rush Donovan Donaly
┬Cedric the Entertainer Gus Petch
┬Edward Herrmann Rex Rexroth
┬Paul Adelstein Wrigley
┬Richard Jenkins Freddy Bender
┬Billy Bob Thornton Howard D. Doyle
┬Julia Duffy Sarah Sorkin
┬Jonathan Hadary Heinz, the Baron Krauss von Espy
┬Tom Aldredge Herb Myerson
┬Stacey Travis Bonnie Donaly
┬Jack Kyle Ollie Olerud
┬Irwin Keyes Wheezy Joe
┬Judith Drake Mrs. Gutman
┬Royce D. Applegate Mr. Gutman (as Royce Applegate
┬George Ives Mr. Gutman's Lawyer
┬Booth Colman Gutman Trial Judge
┬Kristin Dattilo Rex's Young Woman
┬Wendle Josepher Miles' Receptionist
┬Mary Pat Gleason Nero's Waitress
┬Mia Cottet Ramona Barcelona
┬Kiersten Warren Claire O'Mara
┬Rosey Brown Gus's Pal
┬Ken Sagoes Gus's Pal
┬Dale E. Turner Gus's Pal
┬Douglas Fisher Maitre d'
┬Nicholas Shaffer Waiter
┬Isabell O'Connor Judge Marva Munson (as Isabell Monk O'Connor
┬Mary Gillis Court Reporter
┬Colin Linden Father Scott
┬Julie Osburn Stewardess
┬Gary Marshal Las Vegas Waiter
┬Blake Clark Convention Secretary
┬Allan Trautman Convention Lawyer
┬Kate Luyben Santa Fe Tart
┬Kitana Baker Santa Fe Tart
┬Camille Anderson Santa Fe Tart
┬Tamie Sheffield Santa Fe Tart
┬Bridget Marquardt Santa Fe Tart
┬Emma Harrison Santa Fe Tart
┬John Bliss Mr. MacKinnon
┬Patrick Thomas O'Brien Bailiff
┬Sean Fanton Bailiff (as Sean Fenton
┬Justine Baker Wedding Guest (uncredited
┬Bruce Campbell Soap opera actor on TV (uncredited
┬Jason De Hoyos Gardener (uncredited
┬Larry Vigus Lawyer (uncredited
┬Susan Yeagley Tart


Miles Massey, a prominent Los Angeles divorce attorney has everything--and in some cases, two of everything. Despite his impressive client list, a formidable win record, the respect of his peers and an ironclad contract (the Massey pre-nup) named after him, he's reached a crossroads in his life. Sated on success, boredom has set in and he's looking for new challenges. All that changes when Miles meets his match in the devastating Marylin Rexroth. Marylin is the soon-to-be ex-wife of his client Rex Rexroth, a wealthy real estate developer and habitual philanderer. With the help of hard charging private investigator Gus Petch, she has Rex nailed and is looking forward to the financial independence a successful divorce will bring. But thanks to Miles' considerable skills, she ends up with nothing. Not to be outdone, Marylin schemes to get even and as part of her plan, quickly marries oil tycoon Howard Doyle. Miles and his unflappable associate, Wrigley, unwittingly dig themselves in deeper and deeper as they go head-to-head with Marylin. Underhanded tactics, deceptions and an undeniable attraction escalate as Marylin and Miles square off in this classic battle of the sexes.


"Intolerable Cruelty" is a surprisingly aptly named film that offers nothing but multiple glances at one's watch and some restless shifting. It may not be cruel, but it's pretty damn intolerable. So I sit there for the first half hour, waiting for it to get better, until the film starts to gradually become even worse. Is this possible? I wonder to myself. Have the Coen Brothers--Ethan and Joel--made yet another bad movie? To say that they haven't made a good movie since "Fargo" may not be true in some viewers' opinions. Many people enjoyed "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" and "The Man Who Wasn't There." Although I thought that these two films were well made and distinctive, they were also both rather empty and dry--a bit too cold and occasionally stupid for my own liking. And both "O Brother" and "The Man Who Wasn't There" substantially fall downhill in the third--and final--act. After "Intolerable Cruelty" was over I talked to the projectionist for a few moments on my way out. She said that she is a big Coen Brothers fan, but that she thinks they should stick to what they're best at. We both found the occasional moment of "Intolerable Cruelty" sporadically amusing, but I didn't laugh out loud a single time at this film--which is a bad sign for a near-two-hour comedy that thinks it is very clever but really isn't. It is as if the movie believes itself to be as smart as "Fargo." It just isn't. If I'm not mistaken, this is the first film from the Coen Brothers that was not essentially their sole idea in the first place. It is as though the Coens have co-ownership of the film, Brian Grazer co-produced, the script was written by two other individuals (along with the Coens), and all the flair and quirkiness of the earlier Coen outings--such as "The Hudsucker Proxy"--is practically invisible here. What a mess. Just when I thought George Clooney was starting to grow on me in a less-than-literal way, he turns out one of the most over-the-top performances in the history of film. He is Miles Massey, a hotshot divorce attorney who has a strange fetish about clean, white teeth. Clooney presents Miles the way he should be at first, but soon he becomes too silly to take seriously. It seems as though Clooney thought he was acting in some type of slapstick Farrelly Brothers movie here--whereas he was over-the-top in "O Brother," yet still seemed real, here he just seems like a dull sort of caricature of a lawyer--not really a pun on attorneys, not really a pun on humans, just an in-between shell of some strange creature whose eyes bulge open all the time, and whose voice takes high pitches to accentuate certain adjectives and verbs. It's like a sort of unlikable "Saturday Night Live" character stretched out for a feature-length film--minus the laughs of something such as "The Blues Brothers." Sometimes I enjoyed Clooney's performance, and sometimes I found his casual performance refreshing...but more often than not he annoyed me, and I saw him as some type of very weird character. Have you ever seen "Clifford"? He's like Martin Short's title character mixed with a pinch of the egotistical flair of Clooney himself. Disturbing, to say the least. Catherine Zeta-Jones does little but pose cleavage for the camera here--she walks around in short, tight leather pants and makes subtle innuendos. (Zeta-Jones: "I'm going to mount his behind on a wall and throw darts at it." Clooney: "I'm still looking for a behind to mount." Zeta-Jones: "Don't look at mine.") To be fair, she plays her evil character with the sort of touch it deserves--but the ending is so silly and ridiculous that it made me feel cheated. Zeta-Jones, you see, is a sort of black widow--she marries stupid rich men, divorces them, then takes all their money. But this time it hasn't worked, because her husband's (Edward Herrmann) attorney is Miles, who proves that her intention was to take his cash from the start. Even her evidence of his affair (caught on tape by Cedric the Enterainer, who has a funny slogan) is little enough to prove her innocence. So she decides to go after Miles himself--marry him, take his money, and run away. It's a complicated mess but soon she finds herself truly falling in love with him. Well, that's the sort of plot summary I read about, anyway. The first paragraph I described was true. The second is not. There is no gradual love that forms between the two leads as their relationship goes on. The film staggers onwards for close to an hour and a half until they finally get married, and then she suddenly divorces him and is out the door. Then we get the typical ending that I need not delve into. You just have to see it for yourself to laugh at its sheer stupidity. I sincerely hope that the Coen Brothers didn't intend any audience to take such a contrived film seriously? What we had here was great potential for an irreverent romantic comedy with smart dialogue, witty ideas and good central performances by arguably two of Hollywood's hottest sex symbols. Instead we get a slapstick farce that is as utterly stupid as it is unfunny, and as painfully long as it is boring. What went wrong? I expected something much different from "Intolerable Cruelty." I thought it would be a darker, funnier, more serious comedy. At first it was partially serious. Then it just fell away into a pit of silliness--and the rest of the film is a further stumble downhill. Alice has fallen down the rabbit hole and the Coen Brothers are going after her. "Intolerable Cruelty" is a surprisingly aptly named film that offers nothing but multiple glances at one's watch and some restless shifting. It may not be cruel, but it's pretty damn intolerable. 2/5 stars. - John Ulmer
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Intolerable Cruelty (2003) - Joel Coen | Ethan Coen
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Intolerable Cruelty (2003) - Joel Coen | Ethan Coen
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Intolerable Cruelty (2003) - Joel Coen | Ethan Coen
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Intolerable Cruelty (2003) - Joel Coen | Ethan Coen