Reel Shorts | Burn After Reading

13 09 2008

For almost 25 years, the Coen brothers have produced a diverse range of humorous dark comedies that are consistent in being slightly off-kilter. Their latest, “Burn After Reading,” is yet another impressive notch in their continually-expanding film canon that manages to succeed despite a soft center.

After a long-time CIA analyst, Osbourne Cox (John Malkovich) is offered a demotion because of his drinking problems, he angrily leaves the agency and decides to write his memoirs. His disinterested wife, Katie (Tilda Swinton) is not happy that she has to carry the financial load, while trying to maintain an affair with their mutual friend, Treasury agent and playa, Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney).

On the other side of town at the Hardbodies gym, employee Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand) is looking for some surgical assistance to improve her look and help her feel better about herself. Unfortunately, her company’s health plan won’t cover her surgery and she needs to come up with the money on her own. She sees a way out when a copy of Cox’s memoirs are discovered at the gym and dissected by the free-spirited doofus, Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt). The two try to extort money from the pissed-off Cox, who clearly is just one push away from going over the edge.

Every character in the film is in search of something either money, love, security, information you name it. Instead of seeking marriage counseling to save her relationship, the sneaking Katie seizes Osbourne’s assets, changes the lock and kicks him out. Not totally happy in his “sneak-around love” with Katie, the married Harry is working on a special “present” for his wife that is one of the most outrageous moments on film this year.

Even the League of Morons, Linda and Chad, show humorously bad judgment taking their information to the Russians after Osbourne tells both of them to go to hell. While Linda is looking for love in all of the wrong places, she can’t see that her boss, Ted Treffon (Richard Jenkins) has it for her BAD.

One of the film’s best and funniest touches is that Osbourne’s former boss, David Rasche spends several scenes explaining and dissecting the utter hilarity to his superior, J.K. Simmons. Constantly updating him on what’s going on, Simmons’ responses mirror EXACTLY the audiences response to this flurry of unpredictable and crazed action. “Report back to me . . . whenever it makes sense,” the exasperated Simmons states.

Instead of facing off as they did in the intense drama, “Michael Clayton,” this time Swinton and Clooney are lovers, whose interaction still resembles at times fierce negotiation. Speaking of intensity, Malkovich who is noted for his legendary piercing persona that was demonstrated in the fantastic film, “Being John Malkovich,” delivers displays equal parts vacuousness and seething bottled-up rage.

Leave it to Pitt to update his doofus-stoner character from “True Romance” to cool effect. Whether rocking by his damn self or in way over his head trying to help his friend Linda and himself, Pitt a one-man laugh riot. Let’s just say that his interaction with his long-time friend Clooney is well . . . explosive!

If you have watched any of the Coen brothers past films, “Burn After Reading” is a perfect compliment to their impressive filmography. Featuring some of the intensity of “No Country for Old Men,” the hilarity of “O Brother, Where Art Thou” and the sheer moronic pleasure of “Fargo,” “Burn After Reading” is an intoxicating comic stew that once again shows us that even while we laugh, we all have inner demons within us all that leave us all wanting.

Grade: B-




2 responses

13 09 2008
Walrus Films

“Because it is a comedy, the Coens’ new film … is something of a palate cleanser for the brothers

after the rigors of the Academy Award-winning No Country for Old Men,” Kenneth Turan writes in the

Los Angeles Times. “But because it’s a Coen brothers film before it’s anything else, this is about

as dark and nihilistic as comedies are allowed to get before the laughter dies bitterly on your


Read more Reviews for Burn After Reading, and watch the Movie Trailer –

20 09 2008
kingdom media

Brad Pitt can be so funny, as long as he’s not taking himself too seriously… in any case, it’s about time someone made good use of his habitually spastic arm movements

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