After making a movie about a bloody fiasco, the Coen brothers take ‘er easy with Burn After Reading. It’s an oddball comedy about morons extorting money from other morons. The brothers cast great actors to play the characters, especially Brad Pitt as brainless Chad Feldheimer. The new film’s less serious tone may confuse those who liked No Country For Old Men. However, Burn After Reading contains an equally twisted plot with sudden violence.
Linda Litzke (Francis McDormand) works as a personal trainer in Washington, D.C. Forty years old and lonely, she hates her body and wants to undergo expensive plastic surgery. However, her insurance won’t cover it. One day, Linda and her dull-witted friend and coworker Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt) find a lost CD containing files belonging to fired CIA analyst Osborn Cox (John Malkovich). Chad thinks they’re classified documents which gives Linda the idea to blackmail Cox. Chad thinks it’ll be easy, but what does he know? Their attempts at ransoming money from Cox get them involved with an affair Cox’s wife (Tilda Swinton) is having with U.S Marshal Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney) as well as her divorce from Cox. In Coen brothers fashion, the results are shocking and demented.
I hope you enjoy watching selfish characters fight to stay inside their idiot bubbles. Osborn Cox is an irritable drip who’s writing his memoirs in between alcohol binges. His “mem-wah,” as he calls them, recalls his career analyzing barely sensitive information. Nevertheless, he becomes furious when he learns two nitwits have stolen a copy. His wife, Katie, an outrageously tactless woman, doesn’t care about anything happening in his life or even the man she’s cheating with, Harry. This doofus is a serial adulterer who brandishes his service revolver to impress dates.
You almost feel sorry for the main character, Linda, who uses a dating website where she doesn’t need to post her photo. A scene where she searches a park for which wretched soul answered her ad almost makes the movie a drama. But it’s clear she’ll do whatever it takes to achieve her dream even if she puts her friends and herself in danger. Listen to her enthusiastic reaction about finding Cox’s CD: “It’s like falling in front of an expensive restaurant.” Our other hero, Chad is the most likable person in the story. He’s a helpful sort, though there’s nothing floating around in his head besides Gatorade and his next iTunes playlist.