Burn After Reading

January 31, 2021 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | THUMBNAIL REVIEWS | 0 Comments |

"Hey, this crap is better than the crap we're making!"

(2008) (Coen Bros.)

This paean to American stupidity has been likened by The New Republic to the Trump administration. Actually, whilst The New Republic knows a lot about stupidity, it is probably more apt to wield the point in a bi-partisan manner, as the early hallmarks of Trump’s successor seem to trump Mr. Trump and his ilk. Whilst this film has some funnily absurd moments (Brad Pitt’s turn as a complete dope is hilarious, as is Frances McDormand’s outrage at having her attempts to betray her country rebuffed) it is more or less a slapdash affair in low misanthropy.

Anthony Zurcher on Twitter: "Clearly John Malkovich's character in Burn After Reading was an homage to George Kent.… "

The plot, such as it is, involves the misplacing, then theft, of the draft memoirs of disgruntled CIA analyst (a phoned-in performance from John Malkovich, who nevertheless is invariably worth watching). His wife, a typically overwound Tilda Swinton, is dallying with feckless U.S. Marshall (George Clooney), who has numerous affairs to make up for lack of time to do his cherished 5-mile runs. (Everyone is having affairs). Gym workers Chad (Pitt) and Linda (McDormand) try to blackmail Malkovich to raise money for Linda’s series of plastic surgeries, leading to much blood, sweat and tears. Everyone is greedy, grubby and self-obsessed. All break the law and damage others with impunity. The project rattles its way, unevenly, to a cop-out conclusion. It takes a comic genius to make a funny film with these characters: the Coen Brothers do not qualify. Time to close that file: burn after watching.

Burn After Reading (2008)

You can’t underestimate him: Brad as “Chad”


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