1 Star - Degrading
The quirky artistic style of Ethan and Joel Coen is not for everyone. But our objection to “Burn After Reading” is not based on the unusual style of their filmmaking but on the emptiness and profanity of their moral messages. Pulling together their favorite actors into an ensemble once more, the brothers have written a script that requires nearly every character to use the f-word repeatedly while lying, stealing, committing adultery, murder and treason – with the governmental investigators covering it all up.
The ensemble cast centers around a CIA analyst named Osborne Cox (John Malkovich). Having been demoted, Cox quits the agency and sets in motion a series of events that catches everyone in an expanding though nonsensical web. His wife Katie (Tilda Swinton) is a cold-hearted physician who has long ago become hardened and unfaithful.
The other members of the cast include a vain personal trainer named Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand) who is obsessed with getting the money to have a series of plastic surgeries. Her moronic friend, who also trains at the gym Hardbodies, is Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt). Unknown to them, but serendipitously becoming connected with Linda, is Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney). Pfarrer is the serial adulterer who is having an affair with Cox’s wife Katie.
The tale is a disjointed series of events that does not create a linear story-line. Rather, the entire film is a blend of immorality, profanity and coincidences that represent a post-modern saga full of shocking and disturbing images and events. Rated R for language, sexual gags and violence.
The obsession that Linda has on recreating herself into a more beautiful body is both professional and personal. As a personal trainer and as an aging woman who is alone, she sees this as her solution. Have you ever known someone so obsessed in this way? How did having plastic surgery work out for that person?
When Harry Pfarrer uses his good looks for his own sexual pleasure, it eventually costs him his marriage. When he discovers his wife is preparing to divorce him, he seems honestly surprised and distraught. Do you believe an unfaithful person most often feels they will not be discovered?
The conclusion of the film seemed to be when the Coen brothers decided it was long enough. Were you satisfied with the ending? Why or why not?