Intolerable Cruelty

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Intolerable Cruelty
Man in a grey suit, standing beside a woman in a red dress.
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Joel Coen
Ethan Coen
Produced by
Screenplay by
  • Robert Ramsay
  • Matthew Stone
  • Ethan Coen
  • Joel Coen
Story by
  • Robert Ramsay
  • Matthew Stone
  • John Romano
Music by Carter Burwell
Cinematography Roger Deakins
Editing by Joel Coen
Ethan Coen
(as Roderick Jaynes)
Distributed by Universal Studios
Release dates
  • October 10, 2003 (2003-10-10)
Running time 100 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $60 million[citation needed]
Box office $120,217,409[1]

Intolerable Cruelty is a 2003 romantic black comedy film co-written, produced, edited and, directed by Joel and Ethan Coen and starring George Clooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Geoffrey Rush, Billy Bob Thornton, Cedric the Entertainer, and Paul Adelstein. It was released by Universal Pictures.


Donovan Donaly (Geoffrey Rush) comes home unexpectedly early to find his wife Bonnie (Stacey Travis) with her ex-boyfriend, Ollie (Jack Kyle). Miles Massey (George Clooney), a top divorce attorney and the inventor of the "Massey Pre-nup", a completely foolproof prenuptial agreement, becomes Bonnie's lawyer. He is victorious in the divorce case, leaving Donovan with nothing. Meanwhile, Rex Rexroth (Edward Herrmann) is having a sexual roleplaying session with a blonde in a motel room when a private investigator named Gus Petch (Cedric The Entertainer) bursts in and records everything with a video camera. He takes the video to Rex's wife, Marylin Rexroth (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who married Rex solely to obtain wealth and independence via a divorce. Rex hires Miles. Marylin learns from her friend, a wealthy fellow serial divorcée named Sarah Sorkin (Julia Duffy), that Miles is a dangerous opponent.

After Marylin and her lawyer, Freddy Bender (Richard Jenkins), fail to reach a settlement with Miles and Rex, Miles asks Marylin to dinner, where they spar. Miles hires Gus to steal some information for him. In court, Miles has a concierge named Heinz, the Baron Krauss von Espy (Jonathan Hadary) testify that Marylin asked him several years ago to find her a rich, easily-manipulated husband. As a result, Marylin winds up with nothing. Miles's aged boss, Herb Myerson (Tom Aldredge), congratulates Miles on his fine work. Marylin wants revenge and gets it with the help of broke soap producer Donaly, whom she finds living on the street clutching his Emmy statuette. Soon after, Marylin shows up at Miles's office with her new fiancé, an oil millionaire named Howard D. Doyle (Billy Bob Thornton). Though Marylin insists Doyle sign the Massey Prenup, he destroys it during the wedding as a demonstration of his love. A few months later, Marylin divorces Howard and receives the "Doyle Oil fortune".

Marylin later bumps into Miles in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he is the keynote speaker at a convention of divorce attorneys. They discover that they both are lonely people despite their wealth. Miles marries her on the spur of the moment. He insists on signing the Massey Prenup to show that he is not doing it for her money, but she tears it up. He announces at the convention that he is abandoning divorce suits in favor of pro-bono work in East Los Angeles. Miles soon discovers that Howard D. Doyle is in fact just an actor from one of Donaly's soap operas. Marylin has tricked him and now his wealth is at risk. Miles' boss is most displeased with this turn of events and demands that something be done to save the firm's fearsome reputation. He refers Miles to a hitman named Wheezy Joe (Irwin Keyes). But when Miles learns that Marylin's ex-husband Rex has died of a heart attack, leaving her millions because he never changed his will, Miles rushes to save his wife. Marylin is in no danger - her rottweiler guard dogs have Wheezy Joe surrounded and she offers to pay him double to switch sides. When Miles and his assistant Wrigley arrive, they are confronted by the hit man. In the confusion of the ensuing struggle, Wheezy Joe mistakes his asthma inhaler for his gun and shoots himself in the head. Later, Miles and Marylin meet to negotiate their divorce. Miles pleads for a second chance and retroactively signs a Massey Pre-nup. She tears it up, and they kiss. Marylin tells Miles that she has suggested an idea to Donaly for a TV show, and Gus Petch becomes the host of America's Funniest Divorce Videos.



Intolerable Cruelty's screenplay was written by Robert Ramsey and Matt Stone and then refashioned by the Coen Brothers in the mid 1990s. Initially the screenplay was attached to Ron Howard and then Jonathan Demme, who had planned to cast Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant in the lead roles.[2] After their planned film of James Dickey's novel To The White Sea fell through, the Coens signed on to direct.[2]


The film received positive reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a "Certified Fresh" score of 75% based on reviews from 180 critics.[3] Metacritic gives a weighted average score of 71% based on reviews from 40 critics.


Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: Intolerable Cruelty
Soundtrack album by Carter Burwell and various artists
Released October 7, 2003
Genre Film score
pop, blues
Length 50:50
Label Hip-O
Coen Brothers film soundtracks chronology
The Man Who Wasn't There
Intolerable Cruelty
The Ladykillers
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3.5/5 stars
Movie Music UK 4/5 stars[4]
SoundtrackNet 3.5/5 stars[5]

Intolerable Cruelty is scored by Carter Burwell, in his tenth collaboration with the Coen Brothers.

The soundtrack album features a variety pop songs and cues from Burwell's score. "The Boxer", first by Simon and Garfunkel and then as covered by Colin Linden, opens and closes the album. A Canadian blues musician, Linden had previously participated in Down from the Mountain, a live performance of music from the Coens' O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and he performs several songs in the film. Other songs include "Suspicious Minds" by Elvis Presley, "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien" by Édith Piaf and "Glory of Love" by Big Bill Broonzy.

Tracks by Carter Burwell unless otherwise noted.
  1. "The Boxer" (Simon and Garfunkel) – 5:09
  2. "Intolerable Mambo – 1:41
  3. "Suspicious Minds" (Elvis Presley) – 4:33
  4. "Hanky Panky Choo Choo" – 2:07
  5. "Don't Cry Out Loud" (Melissa Manchester) – 3:48
  6. "Feels So Good" (Chuck Mangione) – 9:42
  7. "You Fascinate Me" – 1:40
  8. "April Come She Will" (written by Paul Simon, performed by Colin Linden) – 0:59
  9. "Heather 2 Honeymoon" – 1:39
  10. "If I Only Knew" (Tom Jones) – 4:18
  11. "Love Is Good" – 3:26
  12. "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien" (Édith Piaf) – 2:21
  13. "No More Working" – 3:01
  14. "Fully Exposed" – 1:46
  15. "Glory of Love" (Big Bill Broonzy) – 2:20
  16. "The Boxer" (Colin Linden) – 2:20


  1. ^ "Intolerable Cruelty (2003)". Box Office Mojo. 
  2. ^ a b Walters, Ben (November 2003). "Bringing up alimony". Sight and Sound (British Film Institute (BFI)) 13 (11): 30. ISSN 0037-4806. 
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^

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