Intolerable Cruelty feels exactly like what it is, a Coen brothers film that did not originate from the mind of Joel and Ethan. There are turns of phrase that are unmistakably the work of the duo, but the pacing of this story is not as crisp as their other work. There are a handful of quick-paced, snappy, dialogue-laden scenes and, in those sequences, the film takes full flight. George Clooney is inspired as the suave, vain divorce lawyer shark. He is thoroughly unlikable and yet the audience loves him. Clooney is one of the rare stars who is truly unafraid of looking buffoonish. He throws himself into this part; that the film works as well as it does has much to do with his performance. Catherine Zeta-Jones also delivers a strong performance, although her character being more inscrutable than Clooney's makes it difficult for her to connect with the audience in quite the same way. The rest of the cast is pretty much pitch-perfect, with Billy Bob Thornton getting huge laughs in a pair of scene-stealing sequences. Even though the pacing and the quality of the film varies from scene to scene, Intolerable Cruelty deserves credit for being a genuine update of the classic screwball comedy form. The screenplay is good enough, but the actors mine every ounce of quality from it.
by Perry Seibert review