I finally got this in from Netflix this week, and immediately added it to #3 on the 2008 roundup blog.
It makes the year in film look a little bit better.
While watching "Burn After Reading," I couldn't help but think of the character in "Rounders" who said "If you can't spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you are the sucker."
That quote applies to all the idiots wheeling and dealing for a piece of questionably important intelligence, lost by John Malcovich's low-level CIA data analyst in "Burn After Reading."
But the quote might also apply to the members of its audience still waiting for the "jokes" to start as the credits began to roll. In other words, chances are you're one of the crass Americans being satirized. The Coens find the dumb in all of us, not just the crowds that flocked to "Beverly Hills Chihuahua." I'm alright with that, and then again, not everyone has the same sense of humor. People do stupid things, and the Coens have made a career of writing and filming dumb people executing extraordinarily dim-witted plans that eventually lead to their own demise.
"Burn After Reading" is funny as hell. The humor is at times as painfully black-hole biting as the Coens' darkest work, and absurd as their lightest. All of the main characters think they are sharks in a tiny pond, unaware that the pond is actually a fishbowl sitting on the desk of an indifferent owner. Brad Pitt goofs it up as a dorky physical trainer at a suburban gym, Francis McDormand plays a knuckleheaded middle-aged women who will do anything for plastic surgery, George Clooney completes his "idiot trilogy" with the Coens as a sex-addicted glorified security guard for the U.S. Treasury Department, and Malkovich is a pretentious wannabe sophisticate with delusions of grandeur. It's all way more fun than it sounds — and as one of the few sane characters says while trying to find out what all the fuss is about "they're all sleeping together."
By films end, the Coens include a few scenes of ultra violence and its near-subtle social commentary, but they never pose in political stances other than showing how mindless and inevitable violence has become in America and how little any of it makes sense.
Grade (I don't think I've kept the same scale yet): 86/100