Brad Pitt steals the show in Burn After Reading
The tag line for the star-studded Coen Brothers film Burn After Reading is “intelligence is relative”. Certainly that statement is very fitting for this smart film about stupid people.
John Malkovich stars as Osborne Cox, a CIA analyst who is fired from his job and decides to write his memoirs. His disinterested wife Katie (Tilda Swinton) has already been carrying on an affair with Harry (George Clooney), a married federal marshal whose two great passions are sex and jogging.
As the plot thickens, we meet Linda (Frances McDormand) an employee at Hardbodies Fitness Center who searches for love in online dating and obsesses over procuring funds for plastic surgery. When her close friend and fellow dimwitted employee Chad (Brad Pitt) acquires a disc containing material for Cox’s memoirs, the duo decide to blackmail the former analyst despite the warnings from their boss Ted, played by Richard Jenkins.
Like a warped version of The Man Who Knew Too Little meets The Big Lebowski, the various story lines all intertwine and some very brilliant dark humor ensues.
The most most outstanding element of the film has to be the performances from the cast, most of whom had the roles written specifically for them by Joel and Ethan Coen. Malkovich’s very serious nature lends so much to the humor of a character whose self-importance proves to be unfounded and McDormand’s portrayal of a simple woman who thinks she’s a genius is fantastic. Clooney plays on his smooth, James Bond-esque image from films like Ocean’s Eleven with very funny results.
With such an amazing cast, it would be hard to pinpoint a single stand-out, however Pitt steals the show.
In one particularly hilarious scene, Chad calls Osborne to negotiate a “good Samaritan tax” for returning his missing information. Pitt’s “disguised” voice and phrasing on threats about “the security of your shit” are beyond hilarious as are his tough-guy facial expressions in a scene where Osborne and Chad meet face to face in Osborne’s car.
Those who loved No Country for Old Men should know to expect something more in line with earlier quirky films from the Coens like Fargo or Raising Arizona. They retain all the unique characters and plot twists of their more dramatic work, but incorporate the stellar dialogue that made some of their best comedies so memorable.
Burn After Reading opens September 12th.
View the red band trailer here: