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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

“Burn After Reading” is on Fire

What do you do after making last year’s bloody, morose, best-picture winner “No Country for Old Men?” Do you follow up with an inane comedy of bumbling, unaware idiots? That’s what co-writing-directing-producing-brothers Joel and Ethan Coen did. And bless their hearts, and may they have many more prosperous movie-making years.

“Burn After Reading” is perhaps the funniest film of the year. And cleverly so. I’m fed up with all these Judd Apatow stoner-flicks saturating the market, so it’s nice to see an original and well-imagined film to reestablish the American ideal of comedy. In fact, it’s very hard to come by a high-caliber comedy at all these days. I haven’t laughed in the theater nearly this much since “Grindhouse.”

George Clooney, Brad Pitt, John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, the guy who played J. Jonah Jameson – do I need to continue? Does it help that the lot of them play ridiculous characters with uncertain principles and questionable goals? How about the idea of Brad Pitt playing an amazing muscle-bound sissy of brilliant idiocy? The only remarkable aspect of the characters is simply how unremarkable each of them is in everything except in his or her self-destructive stupidity. And it’s amazing!

To try to make sense out of this movie would be to do it injustice. The very point of this movie is that it is ridiculous. It is absurd. That it plays off of the Coens’ monumental and pragmatic predecessor. The brilliance of this movie culminates as bliss in the absence of sense.

The overall structure of this movie is great, and, as in typical Coen fashion, the cinematography is very pretty. The script is wonderfully written and well thought out, too. What I found very amusing from the beginning is the almost complete lack of a thesis. There’s no clear catalyst propelling the characters until a good twenty minutes into the film – a factor that may try your patience. But the wait is worth it, because when it gets rolling, the movie doesn’t stop until the final scene where two CIA agents abandon any attempt to make sense of it all. This movie isn’t out there to make any political statements or social commentaries; it’s just out there to have fun.

“Burn After Reading” comes with my highest recommendation for dark comedy fans and comedy fans in general.