“BURN AFTER READING” (Brad Pitt, Francis McDormand, George Clooney, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, Richard Jenkins, J.K. Simmons & David Rasche)
I had high hopes for this film – so let’s start from there; I was hoping to see my new #1 movie of 2008 – the premise, the cast & the Coens made me think this might be something special. It’s a good film, it’s a funny film... it just isn’t a great film.
Having Brad Pitt play a complete dolt worked wonders because I’ve never been able to take him seriously as an actor (Even in his best performance in ‘7’, his shortcomings were exposed by the performances of Kevin Spacey & Morgan Freeman) Here, he plays Chad, a dull witted employee at a fitness center & the part fits him – an air head pretty boy playing an air head pretty boy. But after a while, it wears a little thin. Actually the two central characters are Francis McDormand’s Linda & recently dismissed CIA agent,
Ozzy Cox (Played by John Malkovich) as the story centers around a disc left at Hardbodies Gym, where Linda & Chad work. They believe the disc contains ‘National Secrets’ revealed by Ozzy who was in the process of recording his ‘memoirs of an ex-CIA agent’ – Never mind the logic that all Ozzy had to do was check to see if the disc was still in his possession, Cox receives a mysterious phone call from Chad & a meeting is arranged.
Most of Chad’s laughs come via sight gags – showing up for the meeting on his bike wearing a suit & tie with his dorky riding helmet / Child-like expressions while sipping his beverage or listening to his I-pod tunes – Chad is the dumbest of the dumb characters involved in this extortion plot.
The biggest laughs however come from the ‘serious’ roles played by David Rasche & J.K. Simmons – Rasche as a head CIA man & Simmons as the boss to whom he reports his findings.
So where does everyone else fit into the story? Well, George Clooney plays a U.S. marshal who happens to be having an affair with Ozzy Cox’s wife, Katie (Tilda Swinton)
Richard Jenkins plays the manager of Hardbodies who has a crush on Linda, which she is totally unaware of until he promises to break into Ozzy’s house for her to try & retrieve more ‘secret’ info. Clooney’s Harry becomes involved with Linda, so he’s not only cheating on his wife with another married woman; he’s cheating on the woman he’s cheating with... Another big sight gag laugh occurs when Harry shows Linda the ‘invention’ he’s built in his basement.
So all of these characters inter-act with one another in some form, some not realizing how ‘involved’ they all are until the final acts.
I’d say the acting is first rate – not a bad performance in the bunch, yet something was ‘missing’ that kept this film from capturing my top spot. I think the main culprit is the tiresome storyline of having all the characters being unfaithful to their spouses – It’s been done more than a few times lately & frankly, I’m just getting tired of it. Even though “Burn After Reading” does it in a comical vein, it’s become an epidemic lately; isn’t it enough to just have one spouse cheat on another – why does EVERY married character have to commit adultery in EVERY movie I’ve seen this year?
The reason this film made it into my Top 5 at all was due to the fact that the final scene of the movie is the best – Involving Rasche & Simmons ‘summing’ up the idiotic happenings that took place & what eventually became of the survivors – since the movie left me with a big grin on my face & feeling good, I’ve placed it #4 of the year so far. So, yes, a very good movie – but I expected more from it, that’s all...