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Burn After Reading

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MissMal
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Plot synopsis courtesy of IMDB: “A disk containing the memoirs of a CIA agent ends up in the hands of two unscrupulous gym employees who attempt to sell it.”

I expected from this latest Cohen brothers production a situation comedy with entertaining characters well portrayed by the a-list cast. What I got was quite different. While the actors did make their characters believable, this actually served to make the movie much much worse. This is NOT a comedy. At least I found very little funny about it. The characters and their motivations inspire only pity and derision. These are not the usual jesters, ridiculous but in general imbued with a kind of foolish innocence that makes them likeable. Instead, they each epitomize some of the worst human characteristics. There is the lecherous womanizer (Clooney), worthless drunk (Malkovich), complete moron (Pitt), Lillian-esque vicious wife (Swinton), shallow bubble-head (McDormand) and impotent sap (Jenkins). They possess no redeeming qualities (spoiler->)

and the two that come closest to being at all sympathetic (Pitt and Jenkins) meet a horribly violent end (made all the more grotesque for its unexpectedness).

What’s worse is that the writers seem to make no judgments about the shortcomings of these characters or even show that the outcomes that befall them are caused by their actions. This is best illustrated by the CIA characters, who are monitoring all of the shenanigans, the chief at one point says something to the effect of, “What did we learn? Not to do it again, god knows what we did though...” No one learns the error of their ways, no one is properly punished, and there is nothing resembling a hero.

Overall, rather than leaving me amused or entertained, what I normally seek from a comedy, I left the theater feeling a little depressed and slightly nauseated. My recommendation is to save your $8 unless you particularly enjoy watching unbridled idiocy. :)

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I would definitely concur that there is no heroic quality in this movie whatsoever but I still found it entertaining - mostly because it is so different from any of the other movies out there right now, that either a) have plots that are WAY too predictable :D are remakes of a movie that was bad in the first place or c) are sequels to a movie that was bad in the first place. It struck me as being similar to the Seinfeld shows, where all these little elements and idiotic decisions made by all the individual come together in very unexpected ways. MY only disappointment was how each character's end status so poorly resembled what the natural consequences of their decisions should have been. But I still liked how it was unpredictable, and I did find its portrayal of the CIA to be, what I suspect to be, highly accurate- full of bumbles, fumbles, and cover-ups. Not the best movie, but entertaining none the less.

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  • 1 month later...
Overall, rather than leaving me amused or entertained, what I normally seek from a comedy, I left the theater feeling a little depressed and slightly nauseated. My recommendation is to save your $8 unless you particularly enjoy watching unbridled idiocy.

I didn't see this movie (waiting for the DVD) , but I've seen almost all previous Coen Brothers movies, and they are far from "unbridled idiocy". Most of them are comedies, or at the least have a comedy component to them (I watch them all for the funny parts) , and the characters are ridiculous by themselves (hence the funny), and they tend to die in hilariously horrible ways. How much more do you want in terms of a message?

If you understand their dry sense of humor, you really should be entertained by their movies. It's comedy at it's best.

On the other hand, if you don't get it, and try to watch it as a serious film, you're bound to find some fault in their logic:)

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