Burn After Reading – Fine Clusterfuck

(For SI Blog reader Naveen)

Jesus, what a Clusterfuck….

What did we learn….

I guess we learned not to do it again….

I’m fucked if we know what we did.
CIA Director to his underling Palmer

Burn After Reading (2008) is best described as a milder version of a Quentin Tarantino film.

A dark comedy with multiple oddball characters flung into bizarre situations, Burn After Reading begins and ends inside the CIA and depicts the nation’s top spooks as clueless idiots who’d have a hard time tying their shoelaces.

Joel and Ethan Coen (of No Country for Old Men fame) produced, directed and wrote this wild, hilarious ride.

Besides the engrossing riot of a script, the movie’s other big plus is the collection of exceptional talent brought together in a single movie – George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Brad Pitt, John Malkovich, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins. Each singly defines class acting and when they come together the result can only be explosive.

Except for Frances McDormand, we were familiar with the rest of the troupe. And we sure were glad to make her acquaintance.

Burn After Reading did very well at the box office, grossing $161 million on a budget of $37 million.

Fine Clusterfuck

Put simply, anything that can possibly go wrong does go wrong in Burn After Reading.

Once CIA analyst Osbourne Cox (John Malkovich) quits the agency in a huff after a demotion over his drinking (a problem he not only refuses to acknowledge but blames on his non-drinking Mormon colleagues), the runaway train leaves the loony station.

Raging at the CIA in particular and oozing hostility at the ‘morons of the world’ in general, Cox sets down to pen his memoir. Unbeknownst to him, wife Katie (Tilda Swinton) is plotting some hostile moves of her own.

George Clooney is the suave Harry Pfarrer, happily married, a U.S. Marshal,  friend of the Cox family and dear friend of any woman willing to open her thighs.

More child-like than adult, Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt) is a personal trainer at a gym who careens off on a wild ‘reward’ trip after a CD with top secret CIA information is found on the gym floor of a women’s toilet.

Adding to the comic effect, you quickly realize Chad is really not as stupid as his appearance, lines and actions make him sound.

Oscar winning actress Frances McDormand (Joel Coen’s wife in real life) also works at the same gym as a trainer. Less concerned about her gym responsibilities, Linda (Frances McDormand) mopes about finding the wherewithal for the various surgical enhancements she has mapped out for her body.

Agonizing over unrequited love, Richard Jenkings is the gym manager Ted Treffon.

When the paths of this crazy bunch intersect, weird gets weirder and crazy jumps into the stratosphere.

Were I to discus the zany plot any further, even in bare outline, I would be doing a gross injustice to those who have not seen the film.

Each character is a hoot but none more so than Brad Pitt’s character of personal trainer and reward pursuer Chad Feldheimer.

Brad plays an unworldly half-wit with such élan that despite a smaller role he easily outshines the other members of the cast.

The ‘clusterfuck’ ending in the CIA director’s office turned out to be so outrageously funny that I nearly fell off my chair.

In my opinion, it was the ending that prevented Burn After Reading from being a full blown Tarantino or Guy Ritchie film.

SearchIndia.com is pleased to recommend Burn After Reading. You can rent this delightful black comedy for free at most U.S. town and county libraries.

2 Responses to "Burn After Reading – Fine Clusterfuck"

  1. rmadasu   July 16, 2014 at 11:18 am

    I saw this movie a while back and it was very enjoyable.

    The Coen brothers movies are in a league of their own, much better than Tarantinos and Ritchies of the movie business. Pretty much all their movies are worth watching.

    As for Burn after reading it was a great satire against contemporary American culture with people so self absorbed either trying to get fit and stay fit or stop time from destroying their looks and augment their looks artificially so they can snag a higher status man while ignoring men available because they are not good enough, men who do things for women like this hoping that they might love them and losing all they have in this case dying, and of course the bumbling government spies who can’t seem to get anything working.

    Of course there’s more to it, so highly recommended.

    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    My favorite Coen brothers film remains No Country for Old Men.

    Must see it again.

    Not many know of Richard Jenkins (one of the actors in Burn After Reading). Loved his 2008 film The Visitor.

  2. Naveen   July 16, 2014 at 10:47 pm

    Glad to see SI liked the movie.

    If you have not watched “FARGO” then you may want to give it a look.

    It is another black comedy from the Coen brothers and it is available for streaming in Netflix.

    I like Burn After Reading more than No Country for Old Men mostly because of the last 20 minutes of the latter.

    Most of the characters in Burn after Reading are undesirable.

    Only Ted and Cox evoke some sympathy.

    All the men in the movie get screwed and the women end up better off.

    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    You write: All the men in the movie get screwed and the women end up better off.

    In the overall context of this fine movie, it’s literally and figuratively an afterthought that the women end up better off! Although that thought is triggered once (just once) when Harry has a violent confrontation with the private eye on the sidewalk…..

    Just checked…my local library has Fargo. I’ll pick it up soon from the library. (I don’t have NFLX streaming now….only NFLX DVD plan and I tend to sit on the DVDs for eons).

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