Last Friday, Joel and Ethan Coen released their latest soon-to-be hit, Burn After Reading. The film showcases such talents as George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Tilda Swinton and Frances McDormand.
After the Coens’ Oscar winner, No Country for Old Men, Burn After Reading was undoubtedly anticipated by Coen fans and critics alike.
The film follows two Hardbodies fitness center employees, Linda Litzke (McDormand) and Chad Feldheimer (Pitt), who find themselves in way over their heads after discovering a CD in the gym locker room that contains the memoirs of former CIA agent Osborne Cox (played by John Malkovich).
A completely ridiculous series of events ensues as a result of this discovery, and every event thereafter is blown way out of proportion and makes very little comprehensible sense.
Litzke and Feldheimer seem to have absolutely no clue what the hell is going on for most of the film and find themselves breaking and entering, talking to the Russian Embassy, calling strangers in the middle of the night and becoming romantically involved with cheating scum (who are incidentally cheating on their cheating scum).
Although this new film is certainly far more light-hearted than No Country, it will not disappoint the viewer by any means.
With a cast filled with such highly-respected actors and actresses, it comes as no surprise that the performances are well above par. While all characters were played quite well, it must be said that Pitt is by far the most entertaining in the film.
He is the perfect stereotype of a personal trainer—overwhelmingly upbeat and chipper with less than half a brain in his head. And unlike nearly every other character in the film, most of whom fall into the cheating-scum-cheating-on-their-cheating-scum category, Feldheimer is actually a decent human being.
Pitt seems so natural in this goofy role that seeing his character wearing a suit in a few scenes feels uncomfortably unnatural.
Burn After Reading is fueled by greed, infidelity and paranoia. Despite this, it is unbelievably funny, and even more so in retrospect.
As is typical with Coen films, the writing and directing are both very pervasive. The close-up shots, the distinct camera angles and the dark comedy all point to Joel and Ethan Coen, and the common Coen theme of a seemingly simple criminal act going horribly awry holds strong.
While Burn After Reading is a great film, it is also a double-edged sword. The utter confusion and ridiculousness is one of its most obvious strengths but also the biggest flaw. At times, the writing is so out of control and the characters appear to be so out of the loop that nothing seems to really happen. These occurrences provide a whole lot of nobody-knows-what-the-hell-is-going-on and not enough plot development.
But don’t let my slight nay-saying keep you from the theatre. Any fan of the Coen legacy will be sure to enjoy Burn After Reading. Its kooky characters and silly situations will be sure to grip your attention from beginning to end.