Monday, September 22, 2008

A Frank Review of "Burn After Reading" (2008)

The Short Version? "Hello, anybody lose their secret C.I.A. shit?" Extortion and murder follows.
What Is It? Dark Comedy
Who's In It? George Clooney, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, Brad Pitt, David Rasche, J.K. Simmons
Should I See It? Yes.

Sure, I'm reviewing this movie after its second weekend of release. I was out of state and evacuated from a hurricane, so I figure I've got a good excuse. Still, I hesitate to write this up, as I expect I'll find more to dig when this feature hits DVD. It's a farce, you see, and by those clever Coen Brothers to boot. Lots of potential to miss something.

For instance, I've read other reviews that refer to this flick as a comedy. I think that's a tricky term. The farce puts it out of the range of "dramedy," as nothing here can be taken seriously, but there are expanses of time where the movie isn't exactly shooting for laughs either. Still, every moment serves a purpose, so even the dryest stretches are working toward a massive payoff, and in and of themselves can be hilarious by virtue of playing with a straight face amongst lunacy. It's never boring, and is blessed with an abundance of terrific actors turning in rock solid performances. Yes, John Malkovich once again plays John Malkovich, but whether you love or hate him, the many abuses directed at him should please. Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton are also in familiar territory, but are too deep into the zone to rate anything but accolades. It's been some time since I've seen George Clooney or Brad Pitt play characters so broadly, but you dare not take your eyes off of them for fear of missing a single quirky twitch. It's all to the good, and worth your while.

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