Burn After Reading (2008)
Reviewed on 2008 September 12
Another Coen Brothers dark comedy, something that will make you feel better if your own life is messed up. I’ve met very few people that were this far gone! If you liked Fargo, this is for you. It’s wicked and funny, with a couple of moments that made me gasp and laugh at the same time.
Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) is a CIA spook going through a rough double-header: he left his post at the agency after being demoted, and his wife Katie (Tilda Swinton) has no sympathy or time for him, yelling at him instead for forgetting the gourmet cheese for the party they’re hosting that night. Her snotty friends are more important to her than her spouse. Cox tries again after the party to tell her what happened and why he quit, but she just ridicules him for his dream of penning some memoirs. He forges ahead despite her disapproval, something which I’d guess he’s done most of his married life to that glacier.
In a wrinkle only the Coens could produce, and in a way which I wouldn’t dream of giving away here, some data from Osborne’s hard drive comes into the hands of two gym employees: Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand) and Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt, doing a great job here as a happy idiot). Linda and Chad want to see if they can’t turn this windfall into some financial gain. Because Linda is about as dumb as Chad but doesn’t know it, this is going to create a mess of galactic proportions.
If you want to see this — and if you like dark comedies you should — I would be careful about reading any reviews beforehand. I hear that for some reason there are a lot of people delighting in giving away spoilers about this thing, including one genius who blabbed something on IMDb’s main page. Without ruining anything, the acting was good from everyone, including George Clooney doing some very funny paranoid bits. The twisting plot has at its heart the fact that we all do stupid things based on missing or bad information, and the Coens expound well on it for the full running time.
Three chocolate morsels.