Nov 30, 2016

Burn After Reading; Or Better Still, Burn Before Viewing

Three days after watching the execrable O Brother, Where Art Thou, the song "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow" is still in my head.  My friend suggests that we add to my woes with Burn After Reading.

"I saw part of it before.  I walked out of the theater when a main character was killed halfway through.  Some comedy!"

"Give it a try," he says.  "Watch it all the way through before making a decision."

If I watch with him, there will be cuddling, and maybe some bedroom activity.  If I don't, probably not.  So...

Burn After Reading (2008) is a Coen Brothers "comedy" about a lot of old, bald, ugly guys in suits who have offices in Washington, DC.  Most deal with government secrets, but there's also a divorce lawyer, a plastic surgeon, and a guy who used to be a Greek Orthodox priest but now runs a gym.  I can't tell them apart, but according to the IMDB, they're played by John Malkovich, Richard Jenkins, David Rasche, J. K. Simmons, Olek Krupa, Michael Countryman, J.R. Horne, Hamilton Clancy, and Armand Schultz.

The main one is Ozzie (John Malkovich), who resigns from the agency and writes his memoirs, which he puts on a computer disk.

Meanwhile his wife is having an affair with fellow agent Harry (George Clooney), the only guy in Washington DC with hair.

In preparation for asking for a divorce, she copies all of Ozzie's financial information, plus his memoirs, onto a computer disk.  She give it to her lawyer, whose secretary loses it at the gym.


Where it is found by two conniving gym employees, the dimwitted Chad (Brad Pitt) and Linda (Frances McDormand).  They think it contains government secrets, and blackmail Ozzie for its safe return.  When he balks, they try to sell it to the Russians.

Why are they committing this act of treason, the only crime other than aggravated homicide that can get them the death penalty?

Linda wants money for liposuction for her saggy arm and belly fat.

Even though her doctor tells her that those areas will respond to exercise.

And she works at a gym.

Chad is just an idiot.

Did I mention that Linda also happens to be dating  Harry, the guy having an affair with the wife of the man she's blackmailing?  Unbeknownst to any of them, of course.

At this point, I'm wondering who the protagonist is.  Who am I supposed to be identifying with, rooting for, hoping things will work out for?  These are all unpleasant, slimy, horrible people.

Harry is a runner.  Maybe I'll root for him.

Sneaking around the house looking for more government secrets, Chad accidentally encounters Harry, who thinks he's the man that's been following him (in another plotline).  Harry shoots him and disposes of the body.

He doesn't know it's Chad, of course, so later he agrees to help Linda find her missing friend.

Ozzie, meanwhile, believes that Linda's boss is the blackmailer, and kills him.

We adjourn to some old, bald, ugly guys sitting around talking about what happened next. It's complicated, but it ends up with with Ozzie in a coma, Harry in Venezuela, and Linda agreeing to keep quiet if they pay for her liposuction.

Keep quiet about what?  The agency hasn't done anything.

So probably another hour of plot time is covered in a brief synopsis.

It's like watching The Wizard of Oz, all the way up to where Dorothy and her companions reach the Emerald City, then adjourning to Dorothy telling Aunt Em "So we went to the witch's castle, with lots of adventures on the way, and in the end we defeated her."

Terrible way to end a terrible movie.

Gay content:  

A tiny bit of beefcake, the rather muscular arms and shoulders of one of the guys Linda has sex with.  Clooney and Pitt are fully clothed throughout.  Coming Up Daisy, the romantic comedy that Linda brings her dates to, stars Dermot Mulroney, but he's fully clothed, too.

One homophobic slur.

One racist stereotype.

Brad Pitt's character is probably gay, but nothing is ever said.  He just fails to express any interest in women.

But at least I got some bedroom activity out of the deal.