[Screen It]

 

"BURN AFTER READING"
(2008) (George Clooney, Frances McDormand) (R)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Moderate Extreme Extreme Moderate Heavy
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Mild Mild Mild None Extreme
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Extreme Minor Heavy Heavy Extreme


QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: Fitness center employees' attempts to blackmail an ex-CIA agent go awry and end up involving more people than expected.
PLOT:
Linda Litzke (FRANCES McDORMAND) is a middle-aged employee of a fitness center who believes she needs plastic surgery and thus is dismayed that her insurance company won't cover the costs. While her boss, Ted Treffon (RICHARD JENKINS), thinks she's perfect and covertly longs for her, Linda's dimwitted coworker, Chad Feldheimer (BRAD PITT), supports her decision as well as her recent foray into online dating.

One of the men she ends up seeing is federal marshal Harry Pfarrer (GEORGE CLOONEY) who's not only married to Sandy (ELIZABETH MARVEL), a children's book author, but is also having an affair with pediatrician Katie Cox (TILDA SWINTON). She's unhappily married to Osborne Cox (JOHN MALKOVICH) who's just quit being an agent with the CIA after having his role reduced and is now writing his memoirs.

When a disc containing some of his cryptic information is discovered in the fitness center, Linda and Chad conspire to return it to him for a reward, but he doesn't know what they're talking about. From that point on and as they try to find a high bidder and Harry thinks he's being followed, the various characters' midlife crises and affairs collide in ways they couldn't have imagined.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
Older teens might be interested, especially if they're fans of anyone in the cast and/or the writing/directing team of Joel Coen and Ethan Coen.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: R
For pervasive language, some sexual content and violence.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • GEORGE CLOONEY plays a neurotic and married federal marshal who's not only cheating on his wife with Katie, but also Linda and other women. Thinking he's being watched and followed, he uses strong profanity and drinks.
  • FRANCES McDORMAND plays a fitness center employee who's so obsessed with body image -- now that she's into online dating and meeting and sleeping with various strangers, including Harry -- that she tries to blackmail Osborne (and then sell his info to the Russians) in order to pay for her upcoming plastic surgery.
  • BRAD PITT plays her dimwitted coworker and accomplice in her plan. He uses profanity.
  • JOHN MALKOVICH plays a caustic man who's just quit being a CIA agent after having his role downsized. He drinks, uses strong profanity, and is trying to write his memoirs when Linda and Chad come along to irritate him. He also gets quite violent with one person.
  • TILDA SWINTON plays his unhappily married wife, a pediatrician who's having an affair with Harry. She uses strong profanity.
  • RICHARD JENKINS plays Linda and Chad's boss who thinks nothing good will come of their discovery of Osborne's information and becomes increasingly dismayed about how their behavior is affecting their job performance, especially since he secretly loves Linda.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.


    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).


    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    The following is a brief summary of the content found in this R-rated comedy. Profanity consists of at least 60 "f" words, while other expletives and colorful phrases are uttered. Sexually related dialogue is present, as is a sexual encounter (with movement & sounds), while other sexual encounters occur off camera and a large-scale sexual "toy" is seen (complete with a realistic looking dildo).

    Violence consists of several people being shot (with one of them also being attacked with a hatchet), some of which has very bloody results, along with some other non-lethal contact. While played as black comedy, such material and some moments of potential peril might be unsettling and/or suspenseful to some viewers. Various characters have varying degrees of bad attitudes, including those involving extramarital affairs, all of which leads to and/or exacerbates tense family material.

    Characters drink in various scenes and minor/background characters smoke in a few while some behavior might be enticing for some kids to imitate. If you're still concerned about the film and its appropriateness for yourself or anyone else in your home who may be interested in seeing it, we suggest that you take a closer look at our detailed listings for more specific information regarding the film's content.

    For those prone to visually induced motion sickness, there's some bouncy camerawork on a sailboat.


    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • Osborne is told his role in the CIA is being downsized due to him having a drinking problem. He's indignant about that allegation, telling the man that he (the other man) is a Mormon and thus everyone else would appear to have a drinking problem compared to him. When Osborne gets home after quitting, he makes himself a drink.
  • Harry and others have drinks at a party.
  • Osborne has a drink.
  • Men drink at some sort of party/reception, including Osborne who has what looks like wine.
  • Linda has wine on a date.
  • Harry and Linda have what appears to be sake.
  • Katie walks in to find Osborne asleep or passed out, face down, in a chair, with an empty drink on the floor next to his hand.
  • Osborne has a drink with another man.
  • Osborne has a drink.
  • Ted orders a drink.
  • Osborne collects bottles of liquor in his house to take with him.
  • Osborne hears someone in his house and slowly walks around with a handgun in one hand and a drink in another.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • Osborne punches Chad in the face, bloodying his nose. We later see him holding a somewhat bloody rag to his face, and some drops of blood are seen on his shirt.
  • Presumably taking a doctor's call on the phone, Katie asks, "Is there blood in his stool?"
  • A man hides in Harry's closet while the latter showers and then gets dressed, eventually coming toward the closet. Just as Harry opens it, the gun that had been in his holster in there goes off, killing the man inside (we see blood spurt out). After running off to get a knife, Harry sees blood on the wall and the man's shirt, and then a partial view of the dead man's very bloody face.
  • Osborne confronts an intruder in his basement and shoots that man (with some blood coming out from the chest). That man, however, throws something that hits Osborne, allowing the man to run up the stairs. Osborne chases after and then attacks him outside with a hatchet, including a graphic blow to the head with bloody results (seen from a moderate distant, thus no close-up view).
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Osborne is told his role in the CIA is being downsized due to him having a drinking problem. He's indignant about that allegation, telling the man that he (the other man) is a Mormon and thus everyone else would appear to have a drinking problem compared to him.
  • Sandy refers to Katie as "a cold, stuck-up bitch." Later, Katie refers to Sandy the same way.
  • Katie is having an affair with Harry who's cheating on his wife, not only with Katie, but also other women, including Linda.
  • When Osborne announces he's writing his memoirs, Katie sarcastically asks who'd want to read them.
  • After having sex with a man on their first date, Linda snoops through his wallet while he sleeps and discovers a shopping list that appears to have been written by his wife.
  • Chad and Linda inform Osborne that they have his disc (he doesn't know who they are or what they're talking about) and want a reward before returning it. When he refuses to play along, they try to blackmail him, and when that doesn't work, they try to sell the information on the disc to the Russians.
  • Harry lies to Linda that he's separated from his wife.
  • When an associate notices some men staring at Osborne, he jokingly asks him, "You haven't gone pouffy on me, have you?" (the men are there to serve legal papers to him).
  • Chad breaks some glass to break into Harry's place where he then snoops around.
  • Harry's wife kisses another man (presumably her lover).
  • Osborne shoots and attacks another man (who's broken into his house) with a hatchet.
  • A CIA boss doesn't seem too concerned about all that's occurred in the story, and even seems disappointed that an ex-agent who's been shot is only in a coma rather than dead (played for comedy).
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • Scenes listed under "Violence" may be unsettling and/or suspenseful to younger viewers and/or those with low tolerance levels for such material (although it's all played as black comedy).
  • A man hides in Harry's closet while the latter showers and then gets dressed, eventually coming toward the closet. Just as Harry opens it, the gun that had been in his holster in there goes off, killing the man inside (we see blood spurt out). Harry then runs, stumbles down the stairs, grabs a kitchen knife and returns to the scene. There, he sees the man's legs sticking out from the closet and quickly grabs the handgun that's now on the floor. He then sees blood on the wall and the man's shirt, and then a partial view of the dead man's very bloody face.
  • Osborne confronts an intruder in his basement and shoots that man (with some blood coming out from the chest). That man, however, throws something that hits Osborne, allowing the man to run up the stairs. Osborne chases after and then attacks him outside with a hatchet, including a graphic blow to the head with bloody results (seen from a moderate distant, thus no close-up view).
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Handguns/Hatchet: Carried and/or used to threaten, wound or kill others and/or cause property damage. See "Violence" for details.
  • At a party, there's brief talk about Harry's service revolver and that it's never been fired.
  • We see a framed painting of a rifle on Harry's wall.
  • About Harry's gun but said as a double entendre, Linda asks, "It's not going to go off, is it?" He replies that they should go into the other room to find out, and sex is implied but not seen.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "What the f*ck /are you talking about/is this?" "F*ck you," "Oh, for f*ck's sake," "F*cking child's play," "I would be very f*cking surprised," "Who the f*ck are you?" "F*cking moron," "I don't know who the f*ck you are," "Who the f*ck is this?" "I am very f*cking surprised," "Whatever the f*ck it is," "You f*ck," "You f*cker," "You're the f*cker," "F*cking lunatic," "Why the f*ck?" "Hey f*cker," "My whole f*cking life," "Jesus, what a cluster-f*ck," "Jesus f*cking Christ," "Sh*t, yeah," "This is some heavy sh*t," "I think that's the sh*t," "I thought you might be worried about the security of your sh*t," "Petty sh*t," "Such a sh*t-storm of consequences," "One of your sh*t-hole buddies," "Little pr*ck," "...who screwed the pooch," "We caught him with his thing in the big fat ringer," "D*ck-wad," "Whose ass didn't I kiss?" "Such an ass," "What a horse's ass," "She's a cold, stuck-up bitch," "Loser," "You should drop the bozo," "He's such a dope," "Gi-normous ass," "What the hell?" "The fish has bitten," "You haven't gone pouffy on me, have you?" "Numb-nuts" and "Oh, for Pete's sake."
  • Some of Chad's spastic/goofy body movements and other behavior might be enticing for some kids to imitate.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • A gun suddenly goes off, killing a person.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • A mild amount of suspenseful and brief, heavily dramatic music plays in the film.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • At least 60 "f" words, 19 "s" words, 2 slang term for sex (variations of "screw"), 4 using male genitals ("d*ck," "d*ck-wad," "pr*ck" and "thing"), 9 asses, 3 hells, 1 crap, 15 uses of "Oh my God," 2 each of "God," "G-damn," "Jesus" and "Jesus Christ" and 1 use each of "Christ" and "For Christ's sakes."
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • We hear sexual sounds coming from a boat and then see Harry and Katie, post-sex, already dressed.
  • We see a close-up of Linda's skin during a visit to a plastic surgeon, but if we weren't told it was of her buttocks, we probably wouldn't know that's what we're seeing. There's also talk of breast augmentation surgery for her, with the male surgeon marking beneath her breasts (and she says it tickles), but we don't see anything.
  • Classic style torso bust statues (no heads or limbs) in a plastic surgeon's office show bare breasts and another shows full frontal female nudity.
  • Linda mentions having already submitted her turn-ons and turn-offs for an online dating service.
  • We see Linda having sex with a man she's just met through online dating. We see head and shoulder views of both (him on top, her beneath looking bored) and then a somewhat distant view looking into the bedroom that partially shows him between her legs, thrusting -- with sounds, but no nudity). We then see them in bed, post-sex, he shirtless, her under the covers from her chest down.
  • We see Harry and Katie in bed, post-sex, talking. He's shirtless and she has what appear to be the sheets covering her chest.
  • Linda states that she has small breasts and a "gi-normous ass."
  • We see a woman having just finished getting dressed while sitting on an unmade bed, presumably after having sex with Harry who's now also dressed.
  • The following comments are made: "...who screwed the pooch" and "We caught him with his thing in the big fat ringer."
  • About Sandy being on a book tour in rainy Seattle, a comment is made about what else there is to do there under those conditions, with Harry playfully saying he can think of one (presumably meaning sex).
  • About taking a risk of eating food that might cause him an allergic reaction, Harry jokes to Linda that one doesn't always have to wear a condom.
  • About Harry's gun but said as a double entendre, Linda asks, "It's not going to go off, is it?" He replies that they should go into the other room to find out, and sex is implied but not seen.
  • Harry shows Linda the device he's been making (after having seen the same in a "gentleman's magazine") in his basement. It's a chair that glides forward and backward, with the forward motion accompanied by a large and realistic looking dildo that rises up just in front of the seat. Linda seems enticed by the notion, but this is never used. Later, Harry destroys that in a rage, smashing the chair and that dildo.
  • When an associate notices some men staring at Osborne, he jokingly asks him, "You haven't gone pouffy on me, have you?" (the men are there to serve legal papers to him).
  • About Harry going for a jog, Katie remarks about his energy. He then playfully tells her to pull around the corner in her car "and we'll do it in the back." He then clarifies that to mean in the back of the car and not a rear way (presumably referring to anal sex).
  • We see Harry shirtless.
  • A CIA boss comments that Harry has been "screwing Mrs. Cox."
  • An exercise program on TV shows several women in very high-cut leotards.
  • Harry's wife kisses another man (presumably her lover).
  • Harry tells Linda that their "exercise" (sex) the night before didn't hurt (not meant as physical pain, but something else).
  • SMOKING
  • A few miscellaneous characters smoke in a few scenes.
  • We see cigarette butts in an ashtray stand.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • Katie and Osborne have a strained marriage, and she meets with a divorce lawyer who tells her to get Osborne's financial data.
  • Harry learns that his wife is divorcing him.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • The CIA.
  • Affairs.
  • Online dating and casual sex.
  • Plastic surgery.
  • Ted admits that he was a Greek Orthodox priest for 14 years.
  • About taking a risk of eating food that might cause him an allergic reaction, Harry jokes to Linda that one doesn't always have to wear a condom.
  • VIOLENCE
  • Osborne punches Chad in the face, bloodying his nose. To retaliate, Linda drives after and smashes into the back of Osborne's car.
  • Chad breaks some glass to break into Harry's place where he then snoops around.
  • A man hides in Harry's closet while the latter showers and then gets dressed, eventually coming toward the closet. Just as Harry opens it, the gun that had been in his holster in there goes off, killing the man inside (we see blood spurt out). Harry then runs, stumbles down the stairs, grabs a kitchen knife and returns to the scene. There, he sees the man's legs sticking out from the closet and quickly grabs the handgun that's now on the floor. He then sees blood on the wall and the man's shirt, and then a partial view of the dead man's very bloody face.
  • Harry rushes over to a person watching him. That man then hurriedly tries to drive away, smashing into the parallel parked cars in front of and behind him. Harry then backs his car into that one, smashing it, and then chases after and tackles the man to the sidewalk.
  • Harry smashes his large sex toy invention in anger.
  • After discovering that his wife changed the locks on their house, Osborne later returns with a hatchet and smashes the lock and door with that.
  • Osborne confronts an intruder in his basement and shoots that man (with some blood coming out from the chest). That man, however, throws something that hits Osborne, allowing the man to run up the stairs. Osborne chases after and then attacks him outside with a hatchet, including a graphic blow to the head with bloody results (seen from a moderate distant, thus no close-up view). A CIA official later reports that an agent watching that had to intervene and thus shot Osborne, leaving him in a coma (not seen).



  • Reviewed September 9, 2008 / Posted September 12, 2008

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