Friday, March 19, 2004

Everybody eats berries

Tonight, the wife and I watched Intolerable Cruelty, the Coen Brothers' divorce-lawyer flick starring George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones. True to its press, it wasn't a great movie. The Clooney character was sharp and entertaining, and the film had its moments. But overall, not a top-notch Coen effort.

The backstory (as presented in the "making of" part of the DVD) is that the Coens wrote the screenplay under contract some years back, never intending to direct the film. The script fell in to the hands of Ron Howard's Imagine outfit, and somehow after the success of O' Brother, the brothers were talked in to directing it as an Imagine production.

And therein lies the problem. A Coen film without Coen control isn't really a Coen film at all. And it showed.

But what I found amusing about the DVD (the last in my now-canceled Netflix free trial) was the "bonus material". The Coens are well-known as directors who care very little about DVD bonus material, and it says a ton about their work that I buy their DVDs anyway.

Obviously, however, their Imagine contract called for the brothers to provide "bonus material" for the DVD.

Thus we have a section on the disc called "Filmmaker Approved and Assembled Outtakes". Not really an A+ marketing tag, now is it? After watching it, I figure Ron Howard and Brian Glazer decided they had to distance themselves from this piece, thus tagging it unquestionably as a Coen work.

The section features four parts, two of which are blooper reels from Clooney (90 seconds) and Zeta-Jones (60 seconds). The other two parts are as follows:

1) "Paul Adelstein in 'Everybody Eats Berries'" - Adelstein plays Clooney's sidekick/lackey and this bit is an outtake reel from a wedding scene where Adelstein is talking up his gift: berry spoons. The reel is 35 takes (yes, I counted) of him saying "Everybody eats berries", intercut with a few takes of Clooney's response "And nobody needs berry spoons." And that's it.

2) "Rex Rexroth's Home Movie" - Rex Rexroth is the first husband of Zeta-Jones' character, and he has an odd association of trains with sex. So his "home movie" is a three minute, thirty-three second loop of silent, black-and-white train footage (a bit of the footage is playing during the movie in his death scene). Again, that's it.

So, as much as I wish the Coens would do a little commentary track every once and a while, I really dug their dig at DVD bonus material.

I guess it was also in the contract that Imagine had to run whatever the brothers came up with.


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