Region 2 (UK)

Directors:  Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Starring:  George Clooney, Catherine Zeta Jones, Geoffrey Rush

An unprincipled divorce attorney falls in love with a manipulative gold-digger. 

The latest movie from the Coen Brothers is a snappy romance in much the same vein as what's widely regarded as their least popular film, The Hudsucker Proxy. Both are modelled after the screwball romantic comedies of the thirties and forties, like The Front Page and His Girl Friday. Critics have accused the film of being 'Coen-lite'. It's true that for the first time they were working from a script they hadn't written, but that hasn't prevented it from featuring characters as memorable as any the Brothers have created themselves, or from having dialogue that's any less funny than anything in, for example, the eminently quotable The Big Lebowski.

The film is tightly-plotted, and benefits enormously from the on-screen chemistry between the two leads. Clooney's jaded divorce attorney, Miles Massey, isn't the most likeable character to carry a Coen Brothers film, but the actor's obvious gift for comedy and his sheer charisma help to endear him to the viewer. It's a more restrained performance than the one he gave in his previous collaboration with the Coens, in the wonderful O Brother, Where Art Thou?, but some may find his goofball mugging a little irritating.

Universal's Region 2 (UK) DVD closely mirrors the content of the Region 1 version, but has fewer audio tracks, so might potentially offer slightly-improved image quality (differences between the two formats notwithstanding). The US disc features a couple of unrelated trailers: the UK disc opens with a short appeal by Robbie Williams on behalf of UNICEF.

The film is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen format, with anamorphic enhancement. Picture quality on the UK disc is very slightly soft, but this is more likely to be because there hasn't been any artificial edge-enhancement. Generally the image is very acceptable, with only occasional patches of moiré to cause minor irritation (on the roof tiles, as Geoffrey Rush's character returns home at the beginning of the film, and on the chequerboard dress Catherine Zeta Jones is wearing as she prepares to return to L.A., for example). These can be virtually eliminated with a good component connection, or if your set has a good comb filter. Otherwise it's hard to fault the image, which has good tonal range (even in difficult scenes, like those in Herb Myerson's dingy office) and realistic colours. Minor film grain is present throughout. The average bitrate is a very healthy 8.3Mb/sec, and analysis shows it rarely drops below 7.5Mb/sec.

The layer change is well-chosen. It occurs at about 57'16", at the end of a scene, and just before a "Six Months Later" caption (which is not player-generated!)

The disc offers a choice of DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio encoding, via the Languages menu. Switching between the DTS and Dolby Digital tracks on the fly is prohibited, so comparing the two is difficult, especially as the sound mix is generally unspectacular. The DTS track (at 754kbps) has the edge, but differences are minimal and subtle. The DTS track sounds more airy, and offers slightly improved stereo imaging. Fidelity on both versions is generally excellent. The Dolby track is offered at 384kbps. The disc has English subtitles, which do a good job at keeping pace with the machine-gun delivery of some of the dialogue, but there's some paraphrasing. You may need the subtitles to decipher Billy Bob Thornton's thick Texan accent!

The disc offers a modest and not especially enlightening array of bonus materials. The Coens are notoriously reluctant to encourage deconstruction of their craft, so having even this modest selection of supplements is a genuine bonus. The most substantial is A Look Inside Intolerable Cruelty (11'40"), which is a lightweight look behind the scenes, with a few inconsequential sound-bites peppering clips and on-set footage. A Look Inside Intolerable Cruelty - Costume Design (The Wardrobe according to the Bonus menu) is a five-minute featurette that examines the film's couture, which feels like part of a more comprehensive documentary. The Outtakes section is divided into four sections: Everybody Eats Berries (1'20"), which shows innumerable takes of a character saying just that, over and over and over again; Ladies and Gentlemen, George Clooney (1'29") has the actor blowing lines and goofing around; Ladies and Gentlemen, Catherine Zeta Jones (55") presents fluffed takes from the elevator scene; and Rex Rexroth's Home Movie (3'21") is a presentation of the black and white looped film of vintage steam trains that's playing in the background of one of the film's most memorable sequences. There's no Play All option, which is a minor irritation.











Unless explicitly stated, DVD screen captures used in the reviews are for illustrative purposes only, and are not intended to be accurate representations of the DVD image.   While screen captures are generally in their correct aspect ratio, there will often have been changes made to the resolution, contrast, hue and sharpness, to optimise them for web display.

Site content copyright © J.A.Knott - 2002-2005