The Coen Bro's are known for their quirky characters, off the wall plot twists and over the top style, So that might be the very reason that they seem to be almost phoning it in with their latest effort Burn After Reading. Don't get me wrong, there is plenty to like about this film; mainly some hilarious dialogue and situations these idiotic characters throw themselves into.
Upon seeing the trailer for Burn After Reading, it's easy to think this is going to be a goofy comedy, but what struck me was the way the actors were playing their parts. With the exception of Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand it seems all the actors are playing this thing totally straight. Sure what they say or do might be totally off the wall, but they don't seem to realize it. This to me, is a strength of the film. Too often are we given comedic actors playing for laughs.
Burn After Reading's plot follows Osborne Cox(played with bitterness by John Malkovich) as he is demoted, and subsequently quits his job in the CIA. He begins writing a memoir about his working days, but when his wife, Katie(Tilda Swinton), is looking to file for divorce, she must gather his things and bring them to the divorce attorney to make sure she gets her share. Due to a secretaries mishap the disc with Osbourne's notes for the memoir ends up at Hardbodies Fitness Center, where Linda Litzke and Chad Feldheimer(Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt) work as fitness trainers. They find the CD and decide to bribe Osbourne to get some money so Linda can get some plastic surgery done. Somewhere in there Harry Pfarrer is sleeping with both Kaite and Linda(not at the same time).The Film Doctor had an interesting theory on The Coen's ideology behind this film, and I think he is very much right. They seem to be satirizing American middle aged folk. They are body obsessed, money obsessed, self obsessed people who are easily amused and boring. Could they be satirizing themselves, their own films? It's hard to say. But just the thought of Linda and Chad taking the disc to the Russians is hilarious. The Coen's are either focusing on the fears of the new Russia and a new cold war, or on the stupidity of the characters to think that Russia is as big of a threat as they used to be.
In turn, Burn After Reading is very off balance. At once a character will be shot and killed, and it'll be cold blooded and messy, and then just minutes later we are expected to be laughing again. This can work, in fact it does in other Coen works like Fargo and No Country For Old Men, but here, where we are being sold a comedy with some drama, it feels they forgot how to mix the two as perfectly as they have in the past. It is a disappointment to say the least, but still a Superior film to a lot of what Hollywood has to offer.