Amazon Holiday

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Burn After Reading

Q: What’s the movie about?

A: An aging gym employee (Frances McDormand) becomes obsessed with reinventing herself through a cosmetic surgery procedure she can't afford. So when her co-worker (Brad Pitt) accidentally comes across a secret CIA file, she will go to any length to get paid for returning it.

Q: Who’s in the movie?

A: George Clooney, Frances McDormand, Brad Pitt, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, Richard Jenkins, David Rasche, J.K. Simmons, Olek Krupa, Elizabeth Marvel, Dermot Mulroney

Q: Is this movie worth the price of admission?

A: PhotobucketGo! Finally the Coen Brothers make a movie I can get behind! (While it's clear that I'm partially trying to piss off you die-hard Coen Brothers fans, let's be honest, it has been a while since they've made a movie that can be recommended without reservations or caveats.)

Q: Will this movie make me laugh?

A: Most of the characters in this film are cold, heartless, or selfish, and in some cases all of the above. So that's funny.

Q: Will this movie make me cry?

A: No, but it you're offended by swearing you should know that a good 40% of the dialogue in this film consists of the singular phrase, "What the F*#k!" Oh, sorry, did I offend you there?

Q: Will this movie be up for any awards?

A: It's a Coen Brothers movie, what do you think?!

Q: How is the Acting?

A: If Brad Pitt weren't already one of the biggest stars in the world, this would be his breakout performance. Because sometimes the coolest thing you can do is play a total dork. Meanwhile, John Malkovich turns in another performance that's too good for award recognition. In other words, he's so believable that you completely forget he's acting, and therefore don't give him credit for being mind-blowingly good. (See Being John Malkovich for the most pertinent example of him being too good for recognition.)

Q: How is the Directing?

A: It goes without saying that this is the area of filmmaking in which this team can do no wrong. Especially when it comes to comedies, their exaggeratedly high and low wide angles, which characterize their over-the-top style, is so engrossing that I can't figure out why more directors aren't blatantly ripping it off.

Q: How is the story/script?

A: After their last pointless movie, it's nice to see the Coen Brothers make a movie with a point. Ironically, the point may be that there is no point. But at least they make a point about it.

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jaccstev said...

Great reviews. I can see this film to be another good work of Coens. But now, I'll see the film and proof it my self that this really living up the hypes.

Monique Elisabeth said...

It's a fun time, but it's never a good idea to go to a movie with high expectations, cuz that can only lead to disappointment... Thanks for the comment!

Anonymous said...

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN had a point. It's all in the title, and the film backed it up.

Farzan said...

Great review, I just posted my review of Burn After Reading and gave it a B. I really enjoyed the film and thought it was really funny. Good for the Coens and im glad it took the box office this week

Monique Elisabeth said...

Please explain the point of No Country for Old Men. I have been asking people to explain it for a year now, and have still not heard a logical answer. When you say, "It's all in the title" what does that mean?

It seemed to me to be a glorified horror movie, about an all powerful killer who could not be done in, but it was put on some higher level because it was shot in this "indy" Coen-style. So while the filmmaking was good. The story was unclear. Feel free to check out my review again:

Anonymous said...

This country (the USA) for better or worse has no respect for the elderly. They are cast aside as they age, looked upon as weak and feeble instead of respected for the wisdom and history the years and personal experience have given us. (Not that every old fogie is wise, but...) Unlike other countries and cultures where the elderly are revered, the US celebrates youth. Alongside this, the world is always changing, evolving and oftentimes these changes are a mystery or vexing as we get older. (i.e. our world and the people in it seem to grow more violent and angrier.) Violence grows more random, unexplainable and Jones' character recognizes this and can see how he is becoming less relevant and more out of touch. He has no answers for it - and now must deal with feelings of uselessness and defeat. NCFOM is a morality tale dressed in the trappings of a western-thriller (not glorified horror). The degradation of society as a culture spirals downward into a moral morass -- and a (aging) man's inability to do anything about it. Change is one of the great 'constants' in the world; as reliable as the rotation of the earth and therefore one of the most often use 'themes' in both film and literature. NCFOM's 'point' may not be as easily grasped as say, TROPIC THUNDER's, but with a little thought and analysis, it's plainly there and extremely clear. Just because it challenges the viewer (like all good art does) -- it should not be dismissed as pointless or unclear.

Monique Elisabeth said...

I commend you for having given it so much though and analysis. Although I feel the two thoughts (1. old people are undervalued and 2. society is on a downward moral spiral) are incongruous, which is perhaps one of the major problems I had with the movie.

While TL Jones is the narrator, it plays as if Josh Brolin were the main character, and their two stories have very little connection. In fact, I might have cut TL Jones' story out completely, or perhaps made it a separate movie, since it explored a separate theme anyway (even per your analysis).

Maybe it's necessary to read the book to fully grasp the kinds of things you understood in the movie. Maybe it's necessary to discuss it in a college level English course. I have always been of the opinion, though, that one should never have to be familiar with the source material to understand and enjoy a movie. A movie should stand on its own. And I, having not been familiar with the source material, did not get any of the deep meaning you got from that film. Like I said, I would've cut TL Jones out of it, as I didn't see how his story related to the main story.

Although I think we will continue to agree to disagree on NCFOM, I do thank you for taking the time to expand on your original comment. You are clearly very intelligent.

Film-Book dot Com said...

I thought this movie SUCKED. After seeing Tropic Thunder, this tepid attempt at comedy did not fly with me at all. I'd rather watch Old School for the thousandth time than ever see this film again.

Monique Elisabeth said...

Wow. You're the only person I know who hasn't loved it. But comparing this movie to Tropic Thunder or Old School is just weird. It's a totally different style of comedy. That's like comparing South Park to Rugrats. Just because they're both animated, doesn't mean they're the same genre. A lot of people like both shows, but one is meant for adults and the other is meant for younger people. The same is true here.