Burn After Reading (2008) (R)

Is it satire? Is it comedy? Is it a thriller? Is it a parody? Is it a drama?
Who knows?
This is what is so great about almost everything that the Coen brothers make...it's impossible to define. They fit so many genres into a single movie that it feels like a little sampling of everything—fitting perfectly into its own category, the Coen brothers have truly made and defined their own niche.
"Burn After Reading" proves this in spades, it's a shame that it wasn't as well received as its predecessor, "No Country for Old Men". People were expecting the same gritty masterpiece-type movie from the film making team and with this movie; they got anything but that.
You can see the Coens from afar in "Burn After Reading", they keep elements from both "Fargo" and "The Big Lebowski" while still making a fun, original, and sometimes surprisingly insane film.
"Burn After Reading" concerns five or six people's lives and how they intersect. People sleep with people who work with people who talk to people—it all becomes a twisted knot of people knowing people who work with people....you get the idea.
If this was just it, the movie would still be entertaining though it would probably go no where. No, that would be far too simple. We have to have massive confusion, glorious misunderstandings, and hilarious conversations.
Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) works as a CIA analyst and he's being let go. Well, technically, he's not being fired...he's being relocated with a downgrade in security. Outraged at how he's being treated, he asks why he's getting canned—they tell him he has a drinking problem.
So he quits, he doesn't need their money or their sympathy. He's going to write a book, an explosive book that peeks behind the curtain of the CIA. A last mocking jab to his bosses.
When he gets home to tell his uptight wife, Katie (Tilda Swinton), she cuts him off and fusses at him for not picking up cheese on his way home. They're throwing a part tonight and the Pfarrers are coming. Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney) is a lying, nervous, bragging man who never seems more comfortable than when all the eyes are on him—then again, it's also what makes him slightly paranoid. He's a complicated character who Osborne hates just by sight—little does he know that Harry is sleeping with Katie...awkward.
Then we have Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand) who works at Hard Bodies gym with Chad (Brad Pitt). She is looking forward to her four cosmetic surgeries that will take the fat off her arms and butt, smooth the wrinkles in her face, remove her slightly sagging gut, and lift her breasts. She tells people that she's lived as long as she can in the body she has...it's time to move on.
When Katie realizes that she wants to divorce Osborne, she takes down his information on a CD...a CD which gets lost at the gym and falls into the hands of Chad and Linda.
They have no idea what they're looking at, some of the information looks classified.
This is the piece of evidence that brings all the characters in the lovely, twisted story together.
The Coens are at the height of their humor and charm—plus they prove what great story tellers they are. The dialogue in of itself is always perfect and (as I've said before and will say again) they manage to create such vivid characters and define they quickly.
The movie plays out and increases in its madness and its paranoia...it's even more fun at that moment.
Everyone is sensational in their performances. You can't single one of them out.
I don't know what else to say. The Coens really know how every dynamic works and they use their talent to convey this to the viewer.
"Burn After Reading" is great fun.

Score: 4 out of 4 stars

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