>Before I get started, let me tell you that I’m a HUGE Coen Brothers fan. Their quirky characters, involved plotlines, and highly stylized settings are very entertaining and appealing to me. I firmly believe “The Big Lebowski” is the greatest movie of all time. That rug, it really tied the room together, did it not?
Having said this I obviously was looking forward to catching “Burn Before Reading” last weekend. It’s full of talented and entertaining actors, and it seemed quite promising. The last one, 2007’s Academy Award winning “No Country For Old Men”, was quite a departure for them, and BBR appeared to be more in the style of their earlier movies.
The core of the movie is a DVD that contains the memoir of a recently fired international agent. The DVD is found by a couple of trainers at the gym. Initially they want to do the Good Samaritan thing and return it, with the chance of getting a reward, but they soon turn to blackmail as well as offering the information up to foreign powers. One of the trainers is desperately trying to finance a suite of cosmetic surgeries. Almost everybody in the movie is sleeping around with someone, and much security incompetence ensues.
Perhaps I was building it up too much in my mind, but somehow I found it very disappointing. Not that parts weren’t funny, and it would probably have been a perfectly respectable comedy if it wasn’t measured by the Coen’s high standards, but it just didn’t work for me. Some aspects of the movie were quite formulaic, and obviously borrowed from some of their other movies. The plot had some promise, but the ending was quite unsatisfying. The acting is good, as one would expect with names like Pitt, Clooney, McDormand, and Malkovich, but there’s not a lot to pull the characters together.
In the DVD Specials the Coen’s talked about this movie as a collection of roles that they’d come up with for some of their favorite actors. Maybe that’s putting the cart before the horse. The DVD interview also yielded the best line of the movie, when they discussed Brad Pitt “getting in touch with his inner knuckle-head” for this movie.
Maybe they were lost without the staple greatness of Steve Buscemi, John Goodman, and John Torturro. Luckily, “Oh Brother Where Art Thou” was on TV this weekend, which helped set everything right with the world.