Miles Massey, a prominent Los Angeles divorce attorney has everything. Despite his impressive client list, a formidable win record, the respect of his peers and an ironclad contract (the Massey pre-nup) named after him, he's reached a crossroads in his life. Sated on success, boredom has set in and he's looking for new challenges. All that changes when Miles meets his match in the devastating Marylin Rexroth. Marylin is the soon-to-be ex-wife of his client Rex Rexroth, a wealthy real estate developer and habitual philanderer. Underhanded tactics, deceptions and an undeniable attraction escalate as Marylin and Miles square off in this classic battle of the sexes.

From its elegant opening credit titles to its completely satisfying conclusion, this is sheer delight.

When Donavan Donaly (Geoffrey Rush), an L.A based Australian TV producer, comes home unexpectedly to find his wife, Bonnie (Stacey Travis), entertaining a pool cleaner in her bedroom, even though their house has no swimming pool, divorce seems like the only way out and, as the injured party, Donovan seems to hold all the cards. But Bonnie hires Miles Massey (George Clooney), a top divorce lawyer, and it's Donovan who winds up literally in the gutter. Massey is also hired by real-estate developer Rex Rexroth (Edward Herrmann), whose wife, Marylin (Catherine Zeta-Jones), has found about his afternoons in a motel; taken to the cleaners by the wily Miles, Marylin vows revenge.

Most Hollywood comedies these days are so painfully unfunny that Intolerable Cruelty comes as a breath of fresh air. With the always excellent George Clooney doing a near-perfect Cary Grant imitation, and Catherine Zeta-Jones in the Rosalind Russell role, the casting couldn't be better. And the screenplay, by The Coen Brothers and Robert Ramsey and Matthew Stone, is almost up to the high standards of vintage screwball comedy.

The Coens have always been movie buff directors, but this type of fast-paced, witty yet bitchy comedy is a difficult thing to pull off – they succeed triumphantly. Geoffrey Rush has a choice cameo role as the cuckolded husband, and Edward Herrmann and Billy Bob Thornton are hilarious, too, in roles that once might have been played by Ralph Bellamy. From its elegant opening credit titles to its completely satisfying conclusion, Intolerable Cruelty is sheer delight.


Watch 'Intolerable Cruelty'

Friday 1 January, 7:35pm on SBS World Movies (NOTE: No catch-up at SBS On Demand)

USA, 2003
Genre: Comedy
Language: English
Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Starring: George Clooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Billy Bob Thornton, Geoffrey Rush

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