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That rare Coen Brothers project based on someone else's idea. The original screenplay was written by Robert Ramsey and Matt Stone, then touched up by the Coens. Ramsey and Stone had shopped it to Ron Howard and Jonathan Demme before the Coens got on board. Perhaps because of this, it seems a little out of place among their other films (not that a Coen Brothers romantic comedy wouldn't seem out of place).
George Clooney plays Miles Massey, a hotshot divorce attorney whose prenup is the industry standard ("They devote a whole semester to it at Harvard Law"). He takes the case of Rex Rexroth, played by Edward Herrmann, and despite video evidence that Rex has "a wandering pee-pee", Miles wins the case, and plaintiff Marilyn Rexroth, played by Catherine Zeta Jones, is left with nothing.
Or is she?
Tropes used include:
- Animal Reaction Shot: "Does Elsbieta want some bones?"
- Ate His Gun: Poor Wheezy Joe.
- Beleaguered Assistant: Wrigley to Miles.
- Catch Phrase: "I nailed his ass." (Or, "faire un coup de marteau sur des fesses".) Or, how you say, make hammer on the fanny.
- But I Play One on TV: Miles discovers that Howard Doyle is not the real deal but rather just an actor when he sees him playing a doctor on a soap opera on TV.
- Fun with Acronyms: National Organization of Marital Attorneys Nationwide, or N.O.M.A.N. Their slogan is even "let N.O.M.A.N. put asunder..."
- Funny Foreigner: Heinz, the Baron Krauss von Espy. "Silly man. I am a Baron."
- To a lesser extent, Geoffrey Rush's bit part as a larger-than-life Australian film director.
- Gold Digger
- Irrevocable Order: The lawyers find they cannot reach the killer they hired.
- Kansas City Shuffle
- Opening Theme: "Suspicious Minds"
- Overly Long Name: "Your honor, I call Heinz, the Baron Krauss von Espy" "Call Heinz, the Baron Krauss von Espy!" "Heinz, the Baron Krauss von Espy!" etc...
- Also, Marilyn herself, who adds the surnames of her ex-husbands to her own name. Wheezy Jones asks "is that one person?"
- The Plan: Marilyn's plan to defeat Miles. (Anything involving Billy Bob Thornton is going to be complicated.)
- Playing Against Type: A Coen Brothers romantic comedy. With a happy ending, no less.
- Precision F-Strike: The above-mentioned quip by the waitress.
- Psycho for Hire: Subverted with Wheezy Joe. He's a psycho, just not a very good one.
- Recurring Riff: Simon and Garfunkel tunes keep popping up.
- Slow Clap: After Miles' speech before NOMAN
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The depiction of divorce and how only the lawyers benefit from it is appropriately cynical. Even in a romcom.
- Throwing Out the Script: Miles does this with his keynote speech at the NOMAN divorce lawyer conference.
- Throw the Dog a Bone: After the husband in the beginning was left a bum by Massey, Marilyn manages to help him get him get back on top in exchange for getting her in contact with Doyle.
- Vader Breath: Wheezy Joe.