‘Intolerable Cruelty’ (2003) Review

After Miles Massey, a cunning divorce lawyer, exposes her as a golddigger in court, Marylin Rexroth is left with nothing, despite her husband’s blatant philandering. In order to seek revenge and regain her financial wealth, Marilyn sets out to destroy Miles.

Knowing that this movie was written and directed by the Coen brothers, I expected something a bit out of the ordinary for this particular rom-com. Quirky, for lack of a better term. The tagline itself reads “A romantic comedy with bite” and that’s certainly true of Intolerable Cruelty. Catherine Zeta-Jones is a logical choice as the demure, cunning woman looking to bamboozle men for their fortunes, but her character doesn’t really show much depth. She’s a femme fatale with no real substance.

The gem of the movie is George Clooney, as the divorce lawyer whose infamous pre-nuptial agreement “The Massey Pre-Nup” is so ironclad that it’s envied by other attorneys. George Clooney is… well, George Clooney. He usually gives a fun, impressive performance no matter what he’s doing. He’s never been one of my favorite actors, but I have to admit he’s definitely charismatic and he’s oddly sympathetic as Miles Massey and I loved watching him go toe to toe with Zeta-Jones’s Marilyn.

While Zeta-Jones and Clooney had some okay(ish) chemistry,  I’m not entirely sure I bought into their romance beyond it being some physical attraction. Give some of the old Hollywood satire, the romance itself is definitely meant to be a bit exaggerated with the sweeping romantic score and the longing looks and damsel-sounding sighs. Neither character is overly sympathetic, in fact, you could probably say they’re downright unlikeable, but the script is good enough that you really want to see what happens and if they end up together. Misery loves company, after all. But I found this romantic comedy to be more comedy than romantic. I can’t help but wonder what Could Have Been if Marilyn’s character had been given more to do, and perhaps they had cast another actress in the role.

But it’s nothing I’m losing sleep over, because, despite its flaws, Intolerable Cruelty is an entertaining movie with some really fun performances and sharp dialogue. I haven’t watched many movies by the Coen Brothers, but I had really enjoyed the ones I have seen, and it’s easy to add this one to the list.

Author: Romona Comet

"I'm probably watching a rom-com right now."