Billy Bob Thornton returns in a supporting role here, as a Texas oil millionaire. It’s a role he is supremely comfortable playing, and he’s very good at it. Geoffrey Rush is also good in support. But the main players here are George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Are there two more attractive people working in films today? I can’t think of any. These people could have been played by Clark Gable and Gene Tierney, except the story is maybe a bit too cynical for their time.
But that’s the problem, I thought. Is there anyone in the world more cynical than a divorce lawyer? Anyone more grasping than a woman who marries for nothing but money? The movie is very good while it keeps these characters true to their nature. Then George becomes infatuated with Catherine, shows his weakness. That’s great, but when she makes a fool of him, he behaves uncharacteristically. And she does, too, and that’s where it feels false. It would have remained funny if they had continued to joust with each other, instead of the sappy ending we get here. I didn’t believe a roomful of divorce lawyers applauding George’s epiphany, and I didn’t like Catherine softening. They were both con artists, and it should have remained a duel of wits until the end. And beyond. That would have been a decent Coen movie; this is not. It shows none of the real strengths of the brothers, and in the end is nothing but an okay, but routine, romantic comedy. That may be because they never intended to direct this picture in the first place. They had rewritten it from the original writers eight years before, and others were set to direct, but dropped out, and they took over. Not a good idea.
Don’t misunderstand me, though. I laughed a lot, I had a good time. But it hadn’t stuck with me. A second viewing was like the first, in that I had no idea what was coming up. It wasn’t a Coen Brothers film.