96 Min. | Comedy – Crime – Drama | October 2008
IMDB Rating: 7.0
Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Staring: Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, George Clooney
Burn After Reading Review: Norman Cousins would have loved the Coen Brothers’ “Burn After Reading.” The late great Saturday Review editor had treated his illness with Marx Brothers movies, having “made the joyous discovery that 10 minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give at least two hours of pain-free sleep.” Others may lead the cast list with George Clooney and Brad Pitt, their performances were just a bit on the self-conscious side, trying too hard. At any rate, it’s a great cast, and while the plot might have turned into a dud in somebody else’s treatment, the Coen Brothers’ writing is hilarious, their zingers deadly.
In Burn After Reading, a critic, probably with bad digestion, has decried this “very black comedy set in a blanched, austere-looking Washington, D.C. — an uninspiring and uncomfortable place in which everyone betrays everyone else, and the emotional tone veers from icy politeness to spitting rage and back again.” Yes, there are betrayals (none better than the totally unexpected one at the end of the film), and there is rage, but all contained within a glorious bubble of writing-directing-acting excellence. In Burn After Reading, “Burn” grips and holds, surprises and entertains, it is a virtuoso piece.
Don’t be misled by the a “action-trailer” on TV, saturating the airwaves, it says nothing of the film. Malkovich punching Pitt over a compromising CD of spook stuff is not at the heart of this – the McDormand character’s pursuit of cosmetic surgery is, what with her self-examination, a lengthy session with the surgeon (Jeffrey DeMunn, in a brilliant turn), her desperate quest for a way to pay for it. In Burn After Reading, funny and going deep at the same time, “Burn” presents a series of character studies (hence the thought of Moliere), in the context of mannered yet true social interactions (Waugh). Skip descriptions of the plot, reject self-righteous denunciations of smart skepticism and charming evil, go and wallow in life-affirming laughter. Overall, Burn After Reading is an excellent movie, watch it.