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Burn After Reading (2008)

June 15, 2009

5/10 Grinning Headshots

Man, what a deceptive trailer. Definitely not the upbeat, enjoyable movie I thought it was going in to.

Without getting too into the excessive amount of sidestories and subplots that take place in this movie, Burn After Reading is more or less about two fitness instructors who accidentally get their hands on an ex-CIA operative’s memoirs and try to blackmail him into paying them for it so that one of the instructors can pay for her plastic surgery.

Like a lot of movies by the Coen brothers, the story is fueled by a slew of different characters whose lives are all intertwined, yet all have different motives, and everyone has the wrong idea of what’s really going on. But then again, it’s put together in a way that’s not too hard to follow if you’re actually paying attention. I was ironing while watching this and I still knew what was going on. So way to go, Coens.

Burn After Reading is a mix between the subtle comedy of The Big Lebowski and the pitch-black morality tale that is Fargo…only it’s not as funny as the former and not nearly as affecting as the latter. It works at times, but so much of this movie is so damn dark and depressing that it gets hard to balance out the humor.

The story is decent, doesn’t really have a whole lot to say outside of “don’t be vain and don’t be an amoral jerk like everyone in this movie is”, but it’s nothing special. There’s some great dialogue once in a while and the characters are all very unique and well-rounded, but there’s too many to really care about what happens to them

The big thing that Burn After Reading has going for it is its cast. There’s a crap-load of famous people in it and they all do a great job of bringing something different to the table. Big fan of J.K. Simmons (the dad from Juno) as the head of the CIA and one of the few voices of sanity that’s trying to figure out what the hell is going on.

And while I don’t think Brad Pitt’s much of an actor (textbook case of Pretty Boy Syndrome), I have to give him credit for giving one of the more noteworthy performances as one of the idiot fitness instructors. Some people should really stick to non-serious roles.

I don’t know, maybe this is one of those things like The Big Lebowski where I need to go back and watch it again for me to really get how good it is. Or I could just watch The Big Lebowski instead.

Yeah, good idea.

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