Mock Squid Soup–review of BURN AFTER READING

MOCK! and The Armchair Squid are proud to introduce Mock Squid Soup: A Film Society. Each month, on the second Friday, we shall host a bloghop devoted to a particular movie. We invite others to watch the same film and post their own reviews.

Hi there folks! I’m doing something different today…a film review blog hop. My fellow hoppers have watched the Coen Brothers’ BURN AFTER READING and today we offer our opinions on the film.

Burn After ReadingI’m going to start off by saying…I’m not a particular fan of Coen Brothers’ films. in there entire filmography I have only completed watching three films–RAISING ARIZONA, OH BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? and now BURN AFTER READING. I know FARGO is a “great” movie, and THE BIG LEBOWSKI is a cult classic, but I really haven’t been intrigued by either. In truth, I think Jeff Bridges is a creepy dude and his “Dude” persona is, well, yuck.

BURN AFTER READING, I thought, would be an espionage movie. And it was, to some extent. The lead character, Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) is a CIA analyst who is unceremoniously fired. He’s developed a drinking problem, and this is the primary reason for his termination. In the absence of a job, Osborne decides he’ll write a memoir of his long CIA career.

This idea is scorned by his wife Katie (Tilda Swinton) is an Ice Queen of a physician who is carrying on an affair with the serial cheater and currently married Harry PFarrer (George Clooney). Katie thinks she and Harry have a future, and decides to divorce Osborne, kicking him out of their home to go live in their boat. While Harry and Katie carry on, Harry’s wife plans her own divorce. Oh, and Harry takes up with clueless personal trainer Linda Litzky (Frances McDormand) whose attempts at finding a decent man are hampered by her low self-esteem.

Linda, Chad (Brad Pitt) and Ted (Richard Jenkins) all work at a local fitness center. One day the cleaning staff comes across a CD of data–evidence that Katie had collected in her divorce against Osborne. They mistakenly assume it’s sensitive CIA information, because what they can read of is some disjointed notes for Osborne’s memoir. They bring it to Osborne, in an attempt to blackmail him for it’s return–the funds to be used for Linda’s plastic surgery.

There ensues a cat-and-mouse game involving Osborne, Chad, Linda, and Harry. One of these characters ends up dead. And, when Linda can’t get Osborne to pay up, she turns to the Russian Embassy to get some fast cash to finance cosmetic surgery. This dark comedy of errors ends with one man fleeing to Venezuela, one in a coma, two dead and Linda getting her plastic surgery (presumably). It’s a very short film–barely an hour and a half, and it left me feeling…cold.

All the infidelity, and callous behavior, is really not my thing. I watched it with my hubs and 17 y/o son. We were…well, I’ll just say we had two chuckles. Both came at the reports between Osborne’s former boss to his superior regarding the odd behavior and strange connections in this bizarre love rhombus. (I am one of those obnoxious people who laugh at inopportune moments–usually out of shock–and for me to hardly laugh at a “comedy” pretty much indicates a complete lack of humor. I felt this was the case here.)

My hubs, who is an action-adventure aficionado, actually asked if I’d pick up a Rom-Com for our next movie night…so. Yeah.

The pace of the film was brisk, for which I was thankful. The story didn’t appeal, but the acting was well done. McDormand plays a proficient twit. Love-em-and-leave-em Clooney is a perfect cad. And Pitt’s fitness-obsessed Chad is a delicious mimbo.   I liked how Chad and Ted both look after Linda, though I hated how incredibly selfish she was. This story could be called a tragicomedy, if only Linda had been held at all responsible for the wreckage her greed creates. Malkovich, as the scorned alcoholic, is solid. His problems are, essentially, of his own making, and he is punished in excess.

So that’s my take on BURN AFTER READING. I had thought my aversion to this movie had to do with my lack of a Y-chromosome, but neither the hubs nor my son really enjoyed the flick, either. In contrast, I have a decided affinity for OH BROTHER and RAISING ARIZONA. Perhaps because both of those movies have a strong romantic core and an against-all-odds scheme to find happiness.

Anywho, I’d love comments from people who have seen BURN AFTER READING. Tell me if I got it wrong. Or, if you felt the same.  And, feel free to pop in on my fellow reviewers linked below!

1. The Armchair Squid 2. Cherdo on the Flipside
3. V’s Reads 4. Scouring Monk