Intolerable Cruelty (2003)

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Released 24-Feb-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romantic Comedy Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio
dts Trailer
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-A Look Inside Intolerable Cruelty
Featurette-The Wardrobe
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 95:27
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (57:15 ) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Joel Coen
Ethan Coen

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring George Clooney
Catherine Zeta-Jones
Geoffrey Rush
Cedric The Entertainer
Edward Herrmann
Paul Adelstein
Richard Jenkins
Billy Bob Thornton
Julia Duffy
Jonathan Hadary
Tom Aldredge
Stacey Travis
Jack Kyle
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Carter Burwell

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Hungarian Titling
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Joel and Ethan Coen may not be cinematic messiahs, but they sure can be very naughty boys! Movieland's bad lads have largely ignored the Hollywood monster since their 1984 debut, Blood Simple, but this collaboration with Imagine Entertainment's Brian Grazer represent them looking fulsomely into the mouth of the beast. Their movies have spanned every genre, from farce to film noire, wrestling any number of sacred cows to the ground on their travels. Intolerable Cruelty is just another experiment - this time into the world of mainstream movies and the theme of love and divorce in our times.

      Miles Massey (George Clooney) is a slick, successful divorce lawyer to the rich and faithless. In between dental appointments to maintain his pearly bite, he manipulates the legal process to assist his philandering clients in wriggling out of their fiscal responsibilities - for a handsome fee of course. His latest client is the outrageously wealthy Rex Rexroth (Edward Herrmann) whose fetish for choo-choo trains extends rather further than just watching toys go 'round a little track. His wife Marylin (Catherine Zeta-Jones) has hired the hyperactive filming detective, Gus (Cedric the Entertainer) to catch his fleshy high jinks, and now, armed with the evidence, she plans to "nail his ass" (as Gus so flamboyantly describes it.) Her plan is elegantly simple - to sue Rex, play the damning tape as evidence in court, collect a phenomenal alimony, then quietly enjoy her luxurious independence. There's just one problem....Massey.

      Now, we know Massey must be a professional, because in spite of his obvious ardent attraction to the imminently ex Mrs Rexroth, he still manages a full scale victory for his locophilic client. With her original plans in tatters, poor Marylin has to lure another poor mogul into her web. Enter magnate Howard D. Doyle (Billy Bob Thornton). Having hoped that divorce proceedings would have cleared a path for his own intentions, Massey implores Marylin to enlist him as her attorney. She instead favours her previous lawyer (Six Feet Under's Richard Jenkins), although she does nothing to discourage Massey's romantic overtures.

      The paths of our two protagonists continue to cross and weave, leading inevitably to their ultimate entanglement. But, of course, nothing is as it seems, and their hidden agendas and duplicitous tactics threaten disaster for all concerned.

      So, does it work? Well, kind of - it rather depends on your expectation of a Coen film. Clooney virtually modernises his role of Everett in O Brother, Where Art Thou, with his foppish ways and glib verbosity. It appears he relishes the opportunity to display his range of physical comedy, his self-deprecating manner just barely keeping his performance from toppling completely into slapstick. As a duo, he and Zeta-Jones work very well together - their comic rhythms work in excellent syncopation, and their wit and intelligence match and complement each other. Zeta-Jones' portrayal of Marylin is well-pitched and honed. Her performance relies on more than a "va-va-voom" factor - it demonstrates a knowing intelligence and an almost feline hint of danger that keeps her multidimensional and interesting. The rapport between these two leads results in the delivery of some deliciously wicked dialogue, and there is more than one crackle of electricity between the pair.

      The storyline itself is a little variable, oscillating from standard commercial plotlines to sparks of Coenesque mayhem. These two opposing elements have a tendency to cancel each other out somewhat, which will probably leave those who loved such films as Down With Love, or How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days feeling rather disenfranchised, and Coen devotees feeling as if they've just been dipped in sugar and thrown to the thespians.

      And therein lies the major challenge with this film. It's liable to leave a commercial audience a little unsettled, and a Coen admirer a little unsatisfied. Perhaps we could describe it as a "Coen film with trainer wheels" - not the full flight package, but enough to get you started.

      The production levels are very high - everything is very glossy and glorious, and the support actors are all consummately wonderful. It's actually really rather a hoot, as long as you don't expect too much.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


     The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

     The sharpness of this disc is generally very good indeed, with strong contrasts and crisp rendering. Luminance is very satisfactory, with good depth and range and no discernible low level noise.

     The colours are gloriously lush - with a rich full palette and no noticeable bleeds or blocks to mar the transfer. Skin tones are excellent almost without exception, though the court scene with Massey and two of his cronies is poorly colour matched, making cut away shots distracting. This is not a protracted scene, and is not too great a crime in the scheme of things.

     The print was generally free of serious MPEG or film artefacts, although there was occasional loss of detail through inappropriate compression. Grain levels were fine and the transfer was reasonably clean.

     Subtitles were clear, legible accurate and timely.

     This disc is an RSDL disc, with the layer change placed at 57:15. It is not disruptive to the flow of the movie.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     There are three audio tracks on this DVD; English Dolby Digital 5.1, English dts 5.1 and Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1. I confess to not listening to the Hungarian track and found the difference between the two English tracks relatively subtle on this occasion.

     The dialogue was always crystal clear, well presented and properly balanced in the speakers to render a very pleasing result. Audio sync did not present any problems.

     Generally, the musical score by Carter Burwell is not a particularly remarkable piece. It does its job effectively enough, but carries none of the weight that previous Coen efforts have delivered. There are some big brassy and beautiful moments, and occasional hints of whimsy, but overall, it doesn't fully distinguish itself.

     The surround channels were used effectively, but by no means excessively, and the subwoofer appeared on rare instances only.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



     The menu design is animated with montages from the film and has feature music. It is very easy to navigate.

A Look At Intolerable Cruelty (11:37)

     It seems the brothers have a reluctance to discuss their films at any lengths on their DVDs, and this is no exception. We are treated to the odd interview grab from the lads, augmented by other participants gushing about their enthusiasm for the project. Okay, I guess, but not particularly remarkable.

The Wardrobe (5:08)

     Probably about three minutes and eight seconds too long - this is an earnest attempt to pad out scant material for a long enough time to legitimise it as an extra.

The Outtakes

     These are the WORST outtakes I've EVER seen, and whoever thought this was a funny idea needs another whack on the head! Ridiculous loops of vision that are interminable and ridiculous. Just forget it. Well, that's the Berries and Rex Rexroth bits out of the way - but the Clooney and Zeta-Jones ones aren't much better. I know you'll want to see them once for yourself, but don't say you weren't warned!

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     It appears both versions are identical, including those loathsome extras - so take your pick - whatever's the closest region to you, I'd suggest.


     This was never going to be an easy sell - the Coen boys go commercial. But then again, when did the lads ever go for the easy shot? There are sufficient wicked lines to keep one amused and Clooney and Zeta-Jones barely ever disappoint, so it'll fill in a couple of idle hours with a somewhat better than average little cinematic number.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Mirella Roche-Parker (read my bio)
Monday, February 16, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDSinger SGD-001, using S-Video output
DisplayTeac 76cm Widescreen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationTeac 5.1 integrated system
SpeakersTeac 5.1 integrated system

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