Monday, October 20, 2008

Burn After Watching

They obviously weren't watching their own movie

Last night I was moderately excited to see the new Coen Brothers film Burn After Reading. I wondered what they could possibly follow No Country For Old Men with. Then I remembered they were quite adept at creating their own material as well as adapting others'. This, of course, is how they made their name.

In Burn, cheesy-gym employees Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand find a disc containing what they believe to be "top secret CIA shit" and attempt to use it to extort money from its source (John Malkovich) and others. Obviously the two are idiots and so, happen to be, the rest of the characters.

On the surface the film is darkly funny at times, with cringe-worthy moments of violence. It's another statement on American society with themes of paranoia and "stupid people" rife throughout. One visual in the film, the basement device you might have heard about, is just a simple sight gag.

I don't believe it, Angelina wants ANOTHER one?!

Once again, as with most Coen films, the characters are well developed and somewhat unique. They all have backgrounds rich with tempered mediocracy and failure. Each one is intellectually underdeveloped as the next. The actors of course were brilliant, as you would expect from such a cast.Frances McDormand shines as Linda Litzke (those boys, how DO they come up with these names) and channels a bit of Carol Burnett as she goes.

However, Burn After Reading fails as a film because of one simple reason: it isn't a story with flow and purpose, hell it isn't really a story about anything at all. What are movies if not modern versions of old storytellers' tales, those who would sit by the fire and earn their meals with exciting and well developed yarns about dragons, morals and gold? I'm not saying I was expecting ye olde dragon slayer here, but something would have been nice.

8675309? Yes!

I sat in the theatre waiting for my story, wondering what the Coen brothers were trying to say to me which is precisely what they wanted of course. The entire film, one waits for John Malkovich's character to absolutely snap and go on a rampage, which he predictably does. Perhaps that's a statement on our own stupidity? Damn you Coen brothers, damn you to heck.

I give Burn After Reading 2.5/5 stars. I got some enjoyment from it, but it's not a movie I would care to ever see again or really talk about with anyone. Still, a Coen fan for sure.


Jonathan Fisher said...

Beware: This comment contains spoilers!

Wow, I'm surprised at this. I loved this movie. I thought it was a brilliant satire of spy movies, film noir, crime capers, screwball comedies, a whole range of genres. I liked the way the plot flew in really ridiculous directions, and the characters kind of followed each others' mistakes. I thought it was a lot smarter than all of its characters. Plus I thought Pitt was just classic as Chad. And his death scene was one the most amazingly put together scenes I've seen in a long time. Maybe the death of the manager at the end was a little tasteless, though.

Jen Reviews Movies said...

Well sure, it had elements of all of those things and the Brad Pitt death scene did make me laugh albeit quite uncomoftably but I saw all that. There were plenty of good bits, just no story. I need a meaty story! I felt like I wasted my time with this one.

Anonymous said...

omg Jen, I loved your review of this - it was very funny!!! "Burn before watching" hahah

BUT I did really enjoy this film, I can def understand what you mean about it going in all different directions without really GOING anywhere at all, but it was definitely enjoyable.

Brad Pitt was BRILLIANT in his role I thought. He was the funniest thing in that film. I wish he would do comedy and take the piss out of himself more often. Even though I would have given it 3 or 3.5 stars I found much pleasure reading your review :-)

Jen Reviews Movies said...

Thanks Anonymous! :) A lot of people loved it. Thanks for your comment. :)