Burn After Reading

Burn After Reading

3.1 42
Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Cast: George Clooney, Frances McDormand

     
 

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Joel and Ethan Coen's jet-black comedy Burn After Reading begins with CIA agent Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) losing his job. This prompts his long-suffering, unfaithful wife (Tilda Swinton) to consult a lawyer about divorcing him. Osborne decides to write a book about his exploits, but an early draft of his work ends up lost at a gym where it's found by the dimSee more details below

Overview

Joel and Ethan Coen's jet-black comedy Burn After Reading begins with CIA agent Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) losing his job. This prompts his long-suffering, unfaithful wife (Tilda Swinton) to consult a lawyer about divorcing him. Osborne decides to write a book about his exploits, but an early draft of his work ends up lost at a gym where it's found by the dim-witted Chad (Brad Pitt, and the plastic-surgery obsessed Linda (Frances McDormand). They decide to blackmail Osborne in order to help Linda pay for the numerous procedures she wants to undergo. Things grow even more complicated when Linda starts an affair with Harry (George Clooney), who also happens to be sleeping with Cox's wife.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Perry Seibert
The opening shot of the Coen Brothers' new black comedy Burn After Reading takes the viewer from outer space to inside CIA headquarters. The last shot takes us out of that building, back up into space. This device makes it clear that Joel and Ethan are playing God. They have devised a shaggy dog tale where almost every single person acts only in their own self-interest, and nobody gets away unscathed. It's the darkest comedy they've made since Barton Fink, and it might be mistaken for a work of genuine misanthropy if it wasn't so funny. The complicated -- but never confusing -- plot begins when CIA agent Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) learns from his boss that he is being demoted. Cox quits in a fit of pique, all the while throwing F-bombs around with comfort and authority -- like a Princeton-educated Scorsese gangster. The language, as well as the fact that characters are always saying Osborne's last name, make it clear that right from the beginning that vulgarity is one of the movie's major themes. Upon learning of his unemployment, Cox's wife (Tilda Swinton) hires a lawyer to begin divorce proceedings, a move that eventually leads to a lost CD that may contain sensitive state secrets. That information comes into the hands of Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand), a middle-aged woman who needs lots of money in order to reinvent herself with massive amounts of plastic surgery; and her dim best friend, Chad, played with wonderful comic timing by Brad Pitt. Chad swears just as often as Cox does, but for very different reasons. Where Cox's profanity reveals his boundless sense of superiority, Chad simply knows no better way to express himself. When Chad meets face to face with Cox to blackmail him, it's a hilarious clash between an idiot and an a-hole. It would be unfair to reveal how inveterate womanizer Harry (George Clooney) -- and his newest invention -- figure into the plot, because watching this story unfold is so much fun. The movie is written like a screwball comedy, but it's paced like a drama. When audiences might expect the film to build a head of steam like the last half-hour of Raising Arizona, the Coen Brothers refuse to play along. It would appear that they are interested in something more than a straightforward comedy; all of the characters are morally ugly, a fact underscored by the movie's anti-glamorous look -- there is a prominent lack of makeup on just about everybody. The film is populated with realistic grotesques whose selfish, vulgar actions have ramifications that extend far beyond their myopic self-interest. The movie works as a silly R-rated comedy to be sure, but it does have the kick of an adult Grimm Brothers fairy tale with a moral about what awaits those who behave very badly. In its own way, Burn After Reading is as despairing a film about human beings as No Country for Old Men, it just happens to be full of belly laughs rather than existential angst.

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Product Details

Release Date:
12/21/2008
UPC:
0025195049085
Original Release:
2008
Rating:
R
Source:
Focus Features
Presentation:
[Wide Screen]
Sound:
[DTS 5.1-Channel Surround Sound, Dolby AC-3 Surround Sound]
Time:
1:36:00
Sales rank:
44,788

Special Features

Finding the Burn: the making of Burn After Reading; DC Insiders Run Amuck: an all-star cast creates the world of Washington, DC, insiders all trying to get ahead or find true love; Welcome Back George: this comedy piece features Mr. Clooney as he retuns for his third collaboration with Ethan and Joel

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Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
George Clooney Harry Pfarrer
Frances McDormand Linda Litzke
John Malkovich Osborne Cox
Tilda Swinton Katie Cox
Brad Pitt Chad Feldheimer
Richard Jenkins Ted Treffon
Elizabeth Marvel Sandy Pfarrer
David Rasche CIA Officer
J.K. Simmons CIA Superior
Jeffrey DeMunn Cosmetic Surgeon
Hamilton Clancy Peck
Olek Krupa Krapotkin
Michael Countryman Alan
Kevin Sussman Tuchman Marsh Man
J.R. Horne Divorce Lawyer
Armand Schultz Olson
Pun Bandhu Party Guest
Karla Mosley Party Guest
Richard Poe Stretching Gym Patron
Dermot Mulroney Star of 'Coming Up Daisy'

Technical Credits
Joel Coen Director,Producer,Screenwriter
Ethan Coen Director,Producer,Screenwriter
Tim Bevan Executive Producer
Carter Burwell Score Composer
Ellen Chenoweth Casting
David Diliberto Associate Producer
Eric Fellner Executive Producer
Jess Gonchor Production Designer
Robert Graf Executive Producer
Roderick Jaynes Editor
Peter Kurland Sound/Sound Designer
Emmanuel Lubezki Cinematographer
David Swayze Art Director
Mary Zophres Costumes/Costume Designer

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