Film: Intolerable Cruelty
That rare Coen brothers
project based on someone else's idea. The original screenplay was written by Robert Ramsey and Matt Stone (not that one
), then touched up by the Coens. Ramsey and Stone had shopped it to Ron Howard
and Jonathan Demme
before the Coens got on board. Perhaps because of this, it seems a little out of place among their other films (not that a Coen Brothers romantic comedy wouldn't already seem out of place).George Clooney
plays Miles Massey
, a hotshot divorce attorney whose prenup is the industry standard ("They devote a whole semester to it at Harvard Law"). He takes the case of Rex Rexroth
, played by Edward Herrmann, and despite video evidence that Rex has "a wandering pee-pee
", Miles wins the case, and plaintiff Marilyn Rexroth, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones
, is left with nothing.
Or is she?
Tropes used include:
- Animal Reaction Shot: "Does Elsbieta want some bones?"
- Ate His Gun: Wheezy Joe. By accident.
- Beleaguered Assistant: Wrigley to Miles.
- Catch Phrase: "I nailed his ass." (Or, "faire un coup de marteau sur des fesses".) Or, how you say, make hammer on the fanny.
- But I Play One on TV: Miles discovers that Howard Doyle is not the real deal but rather just an actor when he sees him playing a doctor on a soap opera on TV.
- Fun with Acronyms: National Organization of Marital Attorneys Nationwide, or N.O.M.A.N. Their slogan is even "let N.O.M.A.N. put asunder..."
- Funny Foreigner:
- Heinz, the Baron Krauss von Espy. "Silly man. I am a Baron."
- To a lesser extent, Geoffrey Rush's bit part as a larger-than-life Australian film director.
- Gold Digger
- Hollywood Law: In America, if you were in your spouse's will before, but the two of you divorce later, the part of the will that left his/her property to you is automatically nullified.
- Irrevocable Order: The lawyers find they cannot reach the killer they hired.
- Kansas City Shuffle
- Lady in Red: Marilyn, during the casino scene in which Miles really falls in love with her.
- Men Are Childish: In the words of Gus Petch:
They never grow up, they just get tubby.
- Opening Theme: Elvis Presley's "Suspicious Minds"
- Overly Long Name:
- "Your honor, I call Heinz, the Baron Krauss von Espy" "Call Heinz, the Baron Krauss von Espy!" "Heinz, the Baron Krauss von Espy!" etc...
- Also, Marilyn herself, who adds the surnames of her ex-husbands to her own name. Wheezy Jones asks "is that one person?"
- The Plan: Marilyn's plan to defeat Miles. (Anything involving Billy Bob Thornton is going to be complicated.)
- Playing Against Type: A Coen Brothers romantic comedy. With a happy ending, no less.
- The Pollyanna: Wrigley, a divorce lawyer who cries at weddings. Massey name-drops the trope when he enthuses about the "berry spoons" he bought Marilyn as a second-wedding gift.
- Psycho for Hire: Subverted with Wheezy Joe. He's a psycho, just not a very good one.
Miles: She won't suffer, will she?
Wheezy Joe: Not unless you pay extra.
- Recurring Riff: Simon & Garfunkel tunes keep popping up.
- Skewed Priorities: Miles' reasons for trying to recall the hit on Marilyn:
Miles: She's rich now! ...and I love her. I don't have to kill her!
- Slow Clap: After Miles' speech before NOMAN
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The depiction of divorce and how only the lawyers benefit from it is appropriately cynical. Even in a romcom.
- That Was Objectionable:
- The put-upon opposing lawyer, Bender, keeps trying to object to Massey's Courtroom Antics with grounds ranging from the ridiculously feeble ("Uh... poetry recital?") to the ludicrously unnecessary ("Objection! Strangling the witness!"). The judge's response is invariably "I'm going to allow it." Notably, the latter objection was offered when Massey's client was throttling Massey's witness — Bender had no reason to object except being the Only Sane Man in the room.
- When we see him off-duty, Wrigley is wearing a T-shirt that reads "Objection!"
- Throwing Out the Script: Miles does this with his keynote speech at the NOMAN divorce lawyer conference.
- Throw the Dog a Bone: After the husband in the beginning was left a bum by Massey, Marilyn manages to help him get him get back on top in exchange for getting her in contact with Doyle.
- Vader Breath: Wheezy Joe and Herb Myerson (Miles Massey's boss.)