As a pretty decent fan of Ethan and Joel Coen I was excited about their latest movie Burn After Reading–particularly given the success of No Country for Old Men. As usual, I read a few reviews to get ready for the show; to know what to look for. All were good. Clooney good. Pitt good. You know Swinton and McDormand are going to be great.
So we get our popcorn (buffet style at the Gallatin NCG!) and settle in. Wow. Burn After Reading lacks the tightness that has charaterized most of the Coens’ movies. It was lacking in initial intrigue and there was the sense for me that the story never really lifted off. All that being said, there were two defining moments. First, Harry (Clooney) at one point concludes, “Life is not invented.” Just about every character in Burn After Reading seeks change; seeks veneer. They each operate out of his or her own distortion of what is obviously true to us. The point being that we see this around us every day—and must take note of it even in our life. Clooney’s character only realizes this briefly before falling back into character which is, again, not uncommon in the world we have inherited. The second moment is seen in the closing moments when JK Simmons as CIA Superior (Think Spiderman‘s Jonah Jamison) asks, “What have we learned here?” A great question, really, and one of particular depth even in a movie running low on merit.