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Burn After Reading

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Uploaded on Jul 6, 2009

My opinion on this movie and why I'm home in the middle of the tour .There's plenty of fire in Burn After Reading, the Coen brothers' playful and pungent tale set amid the bungling bureaucrats of the CIA and an assortment of other ditzy denizens of Washington, D.C.


Focus Features
John Malkovich portrays a CIA analyst with a drinking problem in the Coen brothers' latest film, "Burn After Reading."
In the Coens' coterie of accomplishments, Burn After Reading is less like last year's scary, Oscar-winning No Country for Old Men and more like the giddily humorous Fargo. There is, though, a shocking moment of violence in Burn After Reading.

The film has a clique of dysfunctional, insecure, crazed characters dealing with paranoia, infidelity and spy vs. spy antics. George Clooney and Brad Pitt, in particular, oceans apart from their Ocean's 11, 12 and 13 indulgences, craft moments that are not only funny but touching.

Then there's Frances McDormand, the fine actress who's married to co-writer, co-producer, co-director (with his brother, Ethan) Joel Coen, who guided her to an Oscar for Fargo.

An employee of the Hardbodies Fitness Center in Georgetown, an incessant online dater, desperate for plastic surgery, she creates a heartbreaking portrait of a miserably lonely woman who can't grasp a meaningful relationship.

Consistently histrionic John Malkovich, meanwhile, plays a CIA analyst, demoted because of an apparent drinking problem. His explosions of rancor at agency honchos blasts from the screen: You're a Mormon, he scowls at one lightweight. Next to you, we all have a drinking problem! Then, he bellows, This is a crucifixion! arms spread, Jesus-like.

Malkovich's performance is laced with detonations of a certain four-letter word. He's wild, angry and unforgettable. His most touching vignette is at home, during the day, unemployed, drinking, gazing at the tube, a vintage episode of Family Feud.

Tilda Swinton, the Oscar winner for Michael Clayton, portrays Malkovich's wife, a self-absorbed pediatrician who's cheating on him with Clooney (her Michael Clayton co-star), a bumbling federal marshal. Swinton, so icy, so demeaning, and scruffily-bearded Clooney, so paranoid, so taken with himself (Maybe I can get in a run, he says after every sexual encounter), together again is sweet.

Clooney is pushing an admirable career that includes The Good German, Good Night, and Good Luck and an Oscar in 2005 for Syriana. Obsessed with flooring (don't ask), suffering from lactose reflux (don't ask), he's a memorable doofus in Burn After Reading.

The frosted-haired Pitt is delightful, too, as a dim-bulb trainer at Hardbodies who gets in over his head after finding a disc of Malkovich's memoirs. He's demonstrated serious acting chops in Babel and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

In Burn After Reading, his comedic talents are impressive. With iPod earphones attached, he bops to the music. One of these days, Pitt deserves an all-out, singular comedy role.

Richard Jenkins, the skillful actor from The Visitor and TV's Six Feet Under, is the fitness center manager who pines for McDormand though she's too busy online meeting men. With merely a glance, he creates a note of sadness, as he did in The Visitor.

Burn After Reading is a roundelay of suspicion, of who's following whom. The cast has rapport or, as thick-headed Pitt pronounces it, rap-port.

There are numerous small pleasures: Clooney warbling My Eyes Adored You in the shower, Pitt and McDormand plotting at a Jamba Juice, Malkovich in a drunken reunion with his Princeton alumni pals.

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