Thursday, February 19, 2009

Burn After Reading

Burn After Reading starts as John Malkovich (the actor who looks most like a penis), playing Osborne Cox (see?) has a very bad week. He's demoted from his job, his marriage to his wife Katie is going poorly (though she's played by Tilda Swinton, who often plays ice bitches, so that's to be expected), especially since she (and every other female character) is having sex with Harry (played by George Clooney, so that's to be expected, really). Then, as a result, enthusiastic dimwit Chad and his best friend, the very insecure Linda (played by Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand respectively) find his secret shit in the gym where they work, because of the divorce research his wife is doing. All told, a very bad week.

It's a movie where the characters all think that the events are much more important than they really are. The secret shit isn't really all that important, but because none of the characters are all that smart or know what important shit is, they run with it. Bad things happen because nobody quite understands the situation at all. It is a movie about intelligence without the intelligence, and for that it's brilliant. It's nice to see a spy movie that doesn't pretend to be very important and isn't especially serious, with some scenes working to underscore just how minor everything is.

I love the Coen Brothers, hell, I even loved Intolerable Cruelty, it's not going to be surprising that I liked this movie. They can do this deadpan silliness that works well for a movie like this, and that they could make a movie about profoundly stupid people doing profoundly stupid things seem smart and clever is something of an achievement on its own. Even better, now that they've got a lot of street cred, they can attract a cast of fantastic actors to make their movies that much better.

What a cast! Brad Pitt, as the goofy idiot Chad is probably the highlight. How many very famous Hollywood actors could be so absorbed into a part that makes them look like such idiots? As Chad dances around to whatever music is playing on his iPod, one can actually forget that he's a famous actor that's on the cover of all the magazines, and when you're as famous as Brad Pitt that's freaking talent.

It can be said that everyone in the film has managed to make their characters believably dumb. By doing that, it helps make the film seem a bit more believable as a whole. The entire plot hinges on everyone involved being as stupid as possible. It just wouldn't work if George Clooney, for instance, couldn't play a sex-crazed moron as well as he does. It wouldn't work if Frances McDormand didn't convincingly portray someone who thinks that plastic surgery is the solution to all her problems. Every one of the actors makes their characters both believable, and that goes a long way.

It is, in essence, a movie that doesn't take itself or anyone involved all that seriously. It's about making fun of stupid people, and everyone enjoys making fun of stupid people. Yeah, people die, things go poorly, but really, nothing important happens and if you think of it everyone brings their ultimate fate upon themselves, so it's okay to laugh and poke fun at them. You could say it's a movie about not over-thinking, but that's not quite accurate. Maybe it's about thinking only as much as you're able. If you're as dumb as the characters in the movie, that's not very much.

1 comment:

  1. There's nothing I can really add to this that doesn't give away VITAL POINTS THAT ARE SUPPOSED TO BE SURPRISING so I will just say this is one of Brad Pitt's finest roles and I love love love this movie. John Malkovich's trademark overacting is actually to the movie's immense benefit. Just the way he says "memoirs" cracks me up.