Review: Burn After Reading

Okay, so it’s been nearly a week since I saw the film — guess it’s about time to write a review. Short version: very funny, laughed a lot. It’s a bit slighter than the best Coen Bros. films, but a hoot absolutely. It lacks the charm of The Hudsucker Proxy, the heart of Raising Arizona or O, Brother, Where Art Thou?, but the stellar cast is perfect, absolutely perfect. I’m not a Brad Pitt fan, but he’s unflinchingly idiotic here and it’s brilliant. I guess Twelve Monkeys wasn’t just a fluke. Why does Clooney do anything but comedy? He’s so funny. Kudos to Frances McDormand for showing herself in the most unflattering lights with her usual complete immersion. Tilda Swinton, always wonderful, is here, too — of course. For someone who can ooze sensuality, it’s hilarious to see her be so cold (I’m resisting giving away some funny lines, I should add). Everybody, Malkovich included, just perfect.

The film is a precise snapshot of Americans at present: paranoid, self-involved, completely unrealistic from having seen and believed too many movies and “reality” shows, and destructively short-sighted. That’s the one thing to carp about. As hilarious as the ride is, there’s really no one to whom you can attach much feeling. This isn’t usually the case in their films: you care about H.I. and Ed, you like Norville Barnes and Amy Archer, you even care about Barton Fink (although you like Charlie better). They’re all deeply flawed, but you root for them anyway. I suppose McDormand’s Linda Lizke is meant to be our lens into the story, but she’s so painfully shallow it hurts to dive into her world. You feel a tug of the heart for Richard Jenkins’ Ted, but – well, you have to see the film.

Despite all this quibbling, I laughed really hard. I don’t understand the reviewers who called it “Byzantine” — apparently having to follow more than one plot line is confusing for some folks. The whole production is superb; there’s even a great song over the end credits. Carter Burwell’s soundtrack shows that No Country for Old Men has had a lasting effect; it was as notable for its silences as for its sound. So, go, laugh — have fun. Hours later you can feel depressed about how accurate its depiction of our country and its sorry state at present is. Then you’ll laugh about it again.

I had my first physical therapy session this morning — mostly hydrotherapy (deluxe whirlpool!) and some exercises to practice at home to try to restore mobility. The therapist also pointed out the effects of previous injuries, such as the bruises up the side of my leg which apparently have to do with damage to the tendons and ligaments before. Guess I should have had more physical therapy back then. I did get a good chuckle because there was a foam wedge in the examining room — a similar object is good for some laughs in Burn After Reading. Tee hee.

One Comment

  1. movie buff says:

    Brad Pitt can be so funny, as long as he’s not taking himself too seriously… in any case, it’s about time someone made good use of his habitually spastic arm movements

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