All Coen Aficionados Should Not Miss It

Manila Bulletin, November 23, 2008 | Go to article overview

All Coen Aficionados Should Not Miss It


Brothers Joel and Ethan Coen won the Oscar last year for "No Country for Old Men," a violent drama-thriller.

Their latest film, "Burn After Reading," goes to another direction as it's more of a dark comedy, like their other Oscar-winning film, "Fargo." It has an inricate plot with so many layers that it will be difficult to give a summary of it. Pals George Clooney and Brad Pitt maybe in the cast, but don't expect it to be anything remotely like their zany "Ocean's" franchise flicks.

It starts at the CIA offices in Langley, Virginia with agent Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) wanting to resign after he got demoted due to his drinking problem. He vows to publish his memoirs that would reveal some secrets about the spy organization. His doctor wife, Katie (Tilda Swinton), is very much annoyed about this even if she has a lover, a former US Marshall, Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney), who contemplates on the possibility of divorcing his wife, Sandy (Elizabeth Marvel).

Harry is a sex-crazed womanizer who enjoys cruising on the net for dates and this is how he meets a gym worker, from Hardbodies Fitness Center in Washington DC, Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand), who's looking for a serious relationship. Linda is dissatisfied with her body and wants to undergo some expensive cosmetic surgical operations that her insurance does not cover. Together with a colleague, the not too bright Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt), she plans to sell secret government information to the Russians.

They got the alleged secrets from a disk found in their locker area containing a copy of the explosive memoir that Osborne wrote and has yet to be published. Blackmail and a series of baffling events ensue. When the Russian Embassy's Krapotkin (Olek Kurpa) tells them their disk is worthless, Linda and Chad promise to get more data. Ted (Richard Jenkins), Linda's boss who's in love with her, warns them that this will lead to no good and the whole deed indeed leads to overreactions and some dead bodies.

Those who go for conventional storytelling will find some elements in the movie quite jarring, what with the Coens having the tendency to pile complications on to deepen the plot then go for shocks by taking some shortcuts and a very matter-of-fact way of forwarding their narrative, just like what happened to Josh Brolin who suddenly died in "No Country for Old Men. …

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