September 17, 2008

That New Coen Brothers Joint


Burn After Reading is disappointing. Some of you probably saw it already, but I went last night because the Sundance Cinema in town has a sweet two-for-one deal with a valid student ID. In general, it's a pretty swanky theater, and serves beer that you can take into the movies with you, and white kernel popcorn (yes, it's different). Notice all the time I'm spending talking about he movie theater, with it's assigned seating, rocking chairs, and quite possibly the most comfortable theater seats ever designed? It's because the movie was a total let down.

They didn't get a single damn thing right, and nor did they get it all wrong either. Like, take Brad Pitt's character. He was funny, dumb, charismatic, but you know, I didn't care about him at all. And most of the characters were like that, except for the charisma part. George Clooney's character may have been responsible for the best two jokes in the movie (both prop gags), but as a character, he wasn't engaging. Tilda Swinton dragged the movie down with her albino ice bitch character. Malkovich seemed content to just yell fuck, a lot, and was never really funny. That lady who's married to a Coen, McDormand, wasn't interesting, and neither was guy who was overly smitten with her, which I suppose is the only character people are supposed to feel at least a little sympathetic for, but I didn't because he's too puppy-eyed.

All the stuff you hear about the story not adding up is a bunch of bunk. It adds up in the sense that one thing does lead to another, it's just empty. And the Coen's seem know it, otherwise why have the JK Simmons CIA agent acting the way he does (more on him later). And it really does seem like this was a contractual obligation of a movie because if just feels like a weak effort, or something. Like half an idea. We've all seen those kind of stories in workshop where there's something going on with all the sex and bungling spy stuff, but the way it stands right now certainly isn't doing that something any justice. Truly, I left the theater just feeling empty, and only mildly entertained (but the popcorn was delicious). And I wasn't expecting some cerebral point about good and evil like in No Country for Old Men, but after you watch, say, The Big Lebowski or Raising Arizona or O! Brother Where Art Thou? you aren't left with an "Oh, that's it?" sunken feeling when you leave the movie. There is satisfaction at the close. Here, nothing. And, maybe that was the point because early in the movie, you realize that the people are after nothing, and nobody really cares, and in the end there are no consequences, so what kind of emotional impact is that supposed to have?

But I will tell you what they got 100% right. JK Simmons. He's in the movie for all of 5 minutes, maybe, as a CIA bossman. He just saves the movie for me from being just plain bad to at least kind of enjoyable. Everything he said was gold. What's remarkable was how little he was in the movie, yet how much of an impact he had on my enjoyment of it. And, I think it's because he says exactly what the audience thinks, so you get to laugh along with him and this little fourth-wall breaking (but not really) kind of thing.

What really blew my mind is that at the end of the movie, people in this theater clapped. Never mind that is a gesture that will always confuse me (do you clap at the end of movies? you know movies can't hear you, right? it's such a weird social move to me), but I really don't understand what they were applauding, unless it was the plush amenities at Sundance.

viva el mustache

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