Burn after Reading: Any chance it is good?

Looks like I’m off to the movies tomorrow and Burn after Reading looks like the best choice of a weak bunch.

Any chance it is good? George Clooney is usually decent and I enjoy John Malkovich.

Please, please, please let it be good…

It’s already got an 8.3/10 rating on IMDb, if that means anything to you.

IMDB ratings always start with a spike; the first people to rate it are bound to be its most enthusiastic fans.

In any case, I don’t have high expectations: the Coen brothers rarely score twice in a row.

I, actually, do have high expectation for an opposite reason. Their last well awarded dark violent film (Fargo) was followed up by a silly excellent comedy (Lebowski) that kind of got lost because people expected something like Fargo. I expect (or hope for) the same sort of great film coupled with missed expectations of reviewers following No Country for this film…

But, now that I look at a list of their movies. Hudsucker Proxy, Fargo, Big Lebowski, Oh Brother Art Thou is an enviable run for any filmmaker. In my mind, not a clunker amongst them.


I saw a sneak preview last night and I enjoyed it. Ranking it among the Coen comedies is tough, at this point. It wasn’t like Raising Arizona or Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, movies that struck me as genius the first time I saw them, but it could be more like, say, The Big Lebowski, which I thought was just ok the first time I saw it, better the second, and absolutely clicked as being a hilarious classic the 3rd.

George Clooney is, indeed, decent. More than decent. He’s fantastic as a scummy, cheating, paranoid sex addict. Brad Pitt is a hoot as an utter brainless doof. It was weird to see Francis McDormand as a total airhead, but she pulled it off. In fact, I kept waiting for her character to smarten up just because Francis McDormand was playing her, but nope, she keeps getting dumber and dumber and dumber, and finally I had to go with it, and forget the actress and just continue wanting to reach through the screen and slap the bitch (the character, not Francis) silly. John Malkovich and Tilda Swinton both play exactly the sorts of characters you’d expect John Malkovich and Tilda Swinton to play (neurotic in the case of Malkovich, and ice queen bitch in the case of Swinton), which is perfectly ok and is probably why they were cast for these characters. As usual, J.K. Simmons steals the movie in his couple of short scenes.

Perhaps people should be forewarned that it’s not a laugh-a-minute yukfest. In fact, most of the funniest bits are in the trailer. As far as judging it as a comedy, it’s nowhere near as funny as Tropic Thunder, not even close. That movie will almost certainly be at the top of my list at the end of the year as the actual funniest movie of the year. Still, it’s a Coen Brothers film which means that it’s bent, dark when you least expect it, slightly surreal at times, full of memorable characters and dialogue, and just so, well, them.

Btw, I was the only one in a packed theater to laugh at the opening credits. To me they were hilarious but I guess everyone else took them seriously.

Can you post what you went on in the opening credits in a spoiler box? I saw the movie today but the first few moments were ruined by the film not being centered on the screen. We got free passes at the end of the movie.

I really, really liked this movie. Without spoiling, I"ll just mention that it is a movie you don’t want to take a bathroom break during since there are odd twists throughout the movie.

The Arizona Republic called it “Dumb and Dumber for smart people.” I thought it was far better than that. Clooney was probably the best out of the three main stars. Brad Pitt was probably the weakest, but I think he also probably got the least screen time.

Pay attention during the first 30 minutes. It is a bit confusing as they jump from scene to scene and character to character. But, having the first part of the movie down with who is cheating on whom is important.

I don’t know. There’s not a single Coen brothers film I didn’t like between Blood Simple and The Man Who Wasn’t There (I did miss Hudsucker Proxy, though.) I mean, Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, Miller’s Crossing, Barton Fink…That’s four solid Coen brothers movies in a row. Follow that with the amazing Fargo and the hilarious The Big Lebowski, you might call O Brother Where Art Thou so-so by their standards, but it’s still a good movie, and finish it off with The Man Who Wasn’t There (the last Coen brothers movie I saw), I really can’t see how you can say they don’t score twice in a row.

It was how the titles seemed more appropriate for a big budget action spy thriller, with the computery sound effects, than a Coen comedy that you already know is going to be full of doofusheads, that was funny to me. You’re watching from a spy satellite, and the camera gets closer and closer to the earth, and the titles come zooming in with this buzzy ditty sound. My brain is malfunctioning and I can’t describe it well, but it’s been used many many many times in other films. Perhaps someone else can come in with a much better description. In any case, the credits were so banal and cliched that I found them hilarious, because the Coens are anything but banal and cliched.

Judging by the spoiler box, what you’re saying is that (without giving it away) is that there are no accidents in a CB movie. They’re so in control of everything that you can enjoy what they’re doing because of what they’re doing.

Sort of like the traveling camera shot down the bar in Blood Simple, when the camera goes up and over the drunk sleeping it off. It takes you out of the movie, but in such a FUN way that you can’t help laughing at it. (Of course, they wipe that smirk off your face pretty dam quick.) But that’s why we love them.


I read once that they don’t allow any improvisation in their movies. They write dialogue exactly to the crossed t’s and dotted i’s and it’s up to the actor to figure out how to say these things without changing a word to make it easier on themselves (the actors). To me, someone like George Clooney proved how good an actor he was when I saw him in O Brother, Where Art Thou? because he had to fit his character to the dialogue instead of fitting the dialogue to the character.

Or something. I don’t know if that made sense. But yeah, every single word, every single shot, every single second of a Coen Brothers film is meant to be exactly how it is, no accidents. That’s why the titles were such a hoot to me, because I knew the last thing this movie was going to be was an action spy thriller. It’s the anti-Bourne. Nobody else seemed to get it. Then again, nobody except my husband and I laughed when, in O Brother, Where Art Thou? the 3 morons come across Chris Thomas King (“Tommy Johnson” geddit? geddit?) at the Crossroads. We were practically on the floor and not another soul around us was even smiling.

I saw it tonight.

It’s not one of the truly great Coen Bros. movies but it’s not one of the duds either. In terms of tone, I’d say it tends to a Lebowski-ish kind of mood. It’s more a goof-ball set of character studies than a plot driven film. Just as with TBL, the plot is almost irrelevant. All the characters (except one) are idiots, and the story is kind of careening and aimless to reflect the characters.

The one sane, intelligent character who speaks for the audience is the one played by J.K. Simmons (Juno’s dad). He’s only in a few scenes but he totally owns them.

Clooney is great (loved the reveal of his big, mysterious basement project). Pitt is self-effacing and gets some of the biggest laughs, Francis McDormand is playing a fully realized, if dimwitted character. Malkovich and Tilda Swinton are also both really good, in my opinion. Really, the performances are universally good, the audience I saw it with laughed a lot and and it’s a definite thumbs up. It’s not as great as Lebowski or Fargo, but I think it’s on that second tier down of Coen comedies like Raising Arizona or O, Brother, Where art Thou/.

It’s definitely MUCH better than Ladykillers.

On preview I noticed you posted this and it pretty much nailed my opinion on it (I saw it a week ago at Toronto Film Fest). The last scene with JK Simmons is genius.

Just as an aside, I ran into Joel Cohen with Francis McDormand on Yonge street right after the screening at which point I acted like a fool for about 30 seconds and was on my way. Still pretty exciting.

I’ve told this story before here, but my mother used to be a reporter and she once interviewed the Coen Brothers on the set of Fargo. It was when they were shooting the scene of Steve Buscemi buring the briefcase full of money in the snow. It was filmed at a real fence line up north of Grand Forks, North Dakota.

To my mom, it was a day at work. I still don’t think she really appreciates how cool it was that she got to do that. She told me how they kept putting fake blood on “some actor.”

I was like, “Mom, that wasn’t ‘some actor,’ that was MR. PINK.”

She was not impressed. If it was Robert Redford, that would have impressed her.

We saw the film yesterday and liked it a lot…first time in a long time I wished the film had been LONGER!

It was truly a cast full of chuckle-heads, but lovable chuckle-heads.

BTW, they showed the preview for Oliver Stone’s new film, “W” and at the end, the entire audience burst out in laughter…not quite sure that was the trailer’s intention, but it was interesting to hear.

Huh. Josh Brolin commented on one of the extras on the No Country DVD that they were willing to try things different ways if an actor suggested it. However, this might not have applied to the dialogue. It wasn’t entirely clear.

The Stone movie is supposed to be satirical, so yes, that was the intent.

Maybe they’ve relaxed the standards, or possibly it could be the difference in attitude between their original screenplays and their adapted screenplays. No Country originated with Cormac McCarthy, instead of in the Coens’ heads.

Thank god we didn’t get the W (barf) trailer. Instead we got Frost/Nixon, which looks great!

I liked his first scene, myself–nearly fell out of my seat laughing when …

… his underling had just finished explaining what the CIA had learned so far about what was going on, and asked what they should do. “Just keep an eye on them for now, and see what they do next. Call me when …” Simmons ponders for a moment, then finishes, “… Call me when any of it makes sense.” You can tell he’s not expecting a call anytime soon. :smiley: