Laughs and gasps with “Burn Af­ter Read­ing”

The Covington News - - Johnny’s pizza: the depot: amici’s: mickey dee’s: -

With its Academy Award­strewn cast and a script by the Coen broth­ers, movie­go­ers can ex­pect to be si­mul­ta­ne­ously tick­led and hor­ri­fied by “Burn Af­ter Read­ing.”

The Coens, who won sev­eral Os­cars this year for their adap­ta­tion of “No Coun­try for Old Men,” chose to work with some lighter fare in “Burn Af­ter Read­ing,” — a com­edy for peo­ple that en­joy po­lit­i­cal es­pi­onage films. In their lat­est project, which they also di­rect, the broth­ers take their au­di­ence on a jolt­ing roller coaster ride, leav­ing them laugh­ing hys­ter­i­cally one mo­ment and gasp­ing in shock and hor­ror at the next.

Des­per­ate to im­prove her chances of suc­cess at In­ter­net dat­ing through a se­ries of cos­metic surg­eries, Linda Litzke (Frances McDor­mand, “North Coun­try”) de­cides that the only way she can raise the funds for the pro­ce­dures is to try and sell state se­crets to the Rus­sians.

En­cour­aged and aided by her mo­ronic co-worker, Chad (Brad Pitt), a fit­ness trainer at the gym where they both work, a meet­ing is set up with Os­borne Cox (John Malkovich), a re­cently fired CIA an­a­lyst whose notes for a mem­oir are ac­ci­den­tally found by Chad and as­sumed to be top se­cret.

Mat­ters are fur­ther com­pli­cated when Linda be­comes in­volved with Harry (Ge­orge Clooney), a fed­eral mar­shal ob­sessed with jog­ging who is si­mul­ta­ne­ously hav­ing an af­fair with Os­borne’s frigid den­tist wife, Katie (Tilda Swin­ton, “Michael Clay­ton”). Round­ing out the cast of dys- func­tional self-in­volved char­ac­ters is Linda’s boss at Hard­bod­ies Gym, Ted (Richard Jenk­ins, “Step Broth­ers”) who has a notso-se­cret crush on Linda and is per­haps the only de­cent one in the lot.

McDor­mand seems right at home in the screw­ball world of the Coens. This is her third movie with the broth­ers (she is mar­ried to Joel Coen). Malkovich as the Prince­ton-ed­u­cated Os­borne plays the role of the swotty elit­ist an­a­lyst to the hilt — down to his head, which is shaved to bring all the more at­ten­tion to his prodi­gious cra­nium.

Pitt’s ev­i­dent de­light in play­ing such a vac­u­ous idiot as Chad, af­ter a long ca­reer of play­ing a se­ries of deep and brood­ing char­ac­ters, in­fec­tiously spills out into the au­di­ence. In fact all of the ac­tors (with the ex­cep­tion of Swin­ton) carry their glee in play­ing such empty-headed car­i­ca­tures just a lit­tle too close to the sur­face to be taken se­ri­ously.

If you weren’t a fan of the am­bigu­ous end­ing to “No Coun­try for Old Men,” then you’re re­ally not go­ing to like the end­ing for this film ei­ther. It’s even more in­con­clu­sive and open-ended, wrap­ping up sec­onds af­ter the height of the film’s action with a tongue-in-cheek ex­change by two CIA agents who won­der if any­thing is to be learned from the day’s dis­as­ters.

Fo­cus Fea­tures

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