A revenge-seeking gold digger marries a womanizing Beverly Hills lawyer with the intention of making a killing in the divorce.
This Coen Brothers film is something not seen in movie theaters for a long time: an intelligent, modern screwball comedy, a minor classic on the order of the competent, fast-talking curveballs about deception and greed like Mitchell Leisen's "Easy Living" and Billy Wilder's "Major and the Minor." "Cruelty" shares something with comedic entries in the Coen canon like "The Big Lebowski" and "Raising Arizona": a full-blooded movie star performance to put it squarely into the strike zone. This time the good work comes from George Clooney. His gift of gab is perfectly suited for Miles, the crème de la crème of divorce lawyers. Miles has everything but a soul, though he doesn't actually look as if he'd require one. And the babe he falls for isn't exactly the person to give him one either. Marilyn (Catherine Zeta-Jones), as delectable as a white-chocolate Easter Bunny, has been tagged for a vicious divorce by her husband, a serial adulterer, after she catches him cheating. Her uptown-girl beauty and silken opacity make her the kind of trophy Miles would want to win. And when she jabs a No. 2 pencil into Miles's heart by showing up with her beau, a Texas millionaire (Billy Bob Thornton), Miles is horrified, but not defeated. That's what makes the picture work so beautifully; it is a film about underhanded professionals by filmmakers who delight in the epitome of criminal enterprise. — Elvis Mitchell
2003-10-10 | Elvis Mitchell | Read the New York Times Review of Intolerable Cruelty