The Coen Brothers have built up a considerable reputation. They seem to be able to take all the popular genres and make something different from each one: Raising Arizona, Barton Fink, Miller's Crossing, Fargo, O Brother Where Art Thou, The Man Who Wasn't There. Now, in their most popularly audience-oriented film, they have taken on light comedy, the battle of the sexes and the touch of old screwball comedy. A number of reviewers who enjoyed the film feel that they have to make some kind of excuse: it is popular, it is comedy, it is slight... However, it is still very enjoyable.
George Clooney has the opportunity to preen himself without limit. He is the smoothest, most superficially charming, most ingenious marriage and divorce lawyer in America. Clooney carries this role off to perfection, with fine comic timing. However, he meets his match in Catherine Zeta Jones. She is the most glamorous, shrewdest and most calculating golddigger in America and, when the chosen foolish husband lapses, she takes him to the cleaners. Well, until she meets Clooney.
There are some very good comic turns, especially from Billy Bob Thornton as her infatuated, Texas-rich next husband to be who cannot contain his prattling (the exact opposite of his fine performance as the silent Man who wasn't there). Edward Herrman is her erring and discarded husband. Geoffrey Rush, unfortunately, hasn't much to do as an obnoxious television producer.
While the tone is comic and sometimes ironic, especially when Clooney becomes infatuated, falls in love and gives a speech to a congress of marriage lawyers about the need for love, the undertones about marriage commitment, pre-nuptial agreements and divorce are quite serious.
A fine example of the Coen Brothers' versatility.
Fr Peter Malone is in the international President of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators and an Associate of the Australian Catholic Film Office.