Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. USA, 2003. Universal Pictures, Imagine Entertainment, Alphaville Films, Mike Zoss Productions. Story by Robert Ramsey, Matthew Stone, John Romano, Screenplay by Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Robert Ramsey, Matthew Stone. Cinematography by Roger Deakins. Produced by Ethan Coen, Brian Grazer. Music by Carter Burwell. Production Design by Leslie McDonald. Costume Design by Mary Zophres. Film Editing by Ethan Coen, Joel Coen.
George Clooney plays a cutthroat divorce attorney who never loses a case and makes sure his opponents get taken for every dime they’re worth. He meets his match when he represents a rich businessman (Edward Herrmann) and has to protect him against a money-grubbing ex-wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who has every intention of making off with as much dough as she can. Complicating the matter is our hero’s sudden attraction to the femme fatale, a yen that doesn’t subside when she follows her first kill with more just like it afterwards. The Coen brothers have once again come up with a crafty little story that recreates their favourite movies of yesteryear, in this case the battle-of-the-sexes comedies that were popular in the forties. Unfortunately, they conjure up very few nostalgic memories as their leads have zippo chemistry between them, and Zeta-Jones is an especially cold fish who never enjoys the juicy possibilities of her role. Clooney’s intense attraction to her is never amply explained, especially when he knows full well that she’s a con artist, and the screenplay offers no sense of irony that would work the situation out in our minds. Coming from any other filmmaker it would be a passable romantic comedy, but considering the Coens’ work of late (O Brother, Where Art Thou, The Man Who Wasn’t There) it’s a painfully average film that would hardly be missed.