Intolerable Cruelty

Intolerable Cruelty (2003)

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TOBACCO INCIDENTS 32
AVG PER MINUTE 0.34
EDITION Universal Studios Home Entertainment DVD released February 10, 2004
MOVIE SUMMARY A divorce attorney falls for a woman on the hunt for wealthy husbands.
TOBACCO IN SHORT An emcee lights up after introducing George Clooney as a keynote speaker plus occasional ashtrays.
POSSIBLE SMOKESCREENS (?) The colorful lovey dovey story, the death of Weezy Joe, the tv gameshow ending.

TOBACCO INCIDENTS: 32

AVG PER MINUTE: 0.34

First visual frame at 0:55
Last visual frame at 94:51
Total visual running time: 93:56

# TIME ANGLE DESCRIPTION
* 1:03 ES First appearance of a blue Jaguar convertible automobile.
1 2:53 HH A small green ashtray is briefly visible on the nightstand where the gun is kept.
2 4:29 MD Same small green ashtray is briefly visible on the nightstand.
* 5:45   Geoffrey Rush dialog: “That’s my bloody Jag!”
* 7:09 Various The opening credits animated sequence feature lots of humans & birds exhaling little red hearts almost like people blowing smoke rings.
When I think back on this animated opening credit sequence, I specifically remember one of the characters smoking a cigarette and/or exhaling smoke but upon closer viewing they don’t! They are actually just “exhaling” lots of little red hearts that billow up just like smoke rings. Ain’t that some clever shit?!
* 13:00   George Clooney dialog: “I have a tab at the Mercedes dealership.”
* 15:20 ES First appearance of a silver Mercedes convertible.
3 16:34 ES An ashtray is visible on the motel room nightstand.
4 16:41 HH Same ashtray visible on the motel room nightstand.
* 16:59 CU *** Evidence of brand obfuscation: a television with the brand label obviously blacked out. ***
5 17:01 Dolly in A silver pedestal ashtray is visible behind Catherine Zeta Jones.
* 19:48 ES What appears to be a large glass ashtray on the coffee table in George Clooney’s office.
* 23:54 CU A Panasonic brand pencil sharpener is clearly visible.
* 26:19 CU A Sony brand television is visible.
* 26:29 ES Some Ruffles brand potato chips and Budweiser & Bud Light bottles are visible.
* 29:38 CU A pair of Reebok brand sneakers is clearly visible.
* 31:50 ES/Dolly An Enterprise Car Rental sign is visible in the background outside the diner.
* 39:00   Milkbone brand dog bones are mentioned by name.
* 42:18 MD The stone cherub in background plays a flute but it looks like a pipe.
6 44:20 ES A green glass ashtray is visible on the lamp table next to George Clooney.
7 44:31 CU Same green glass ashtray is clearly visible in this closeup.
8 45:10 ES/Dolly in What appears to be a brass ashtray on some kind of animal hoof is visible on the desk.
* 46:22 CU Some Scope brand mouthwash is clearly visible inside George Clooney’s medicine cabinet.
* 52:40 ES Some Wilson brand tennis racquets are clearly visible.
* 53:00 MD George Clooney wears an Izod brand polo shirt for tennis practice.
* 54:30 ES/Crane A Gibson brand acoustic guitar is visible.
* 59:11 OTS Man heard singing in background: “Wish I was a Kelloggs corn flake…”
Interestingly enough, this Kelloggs songs comes right after Catherine Zeta Jones’ dialog: “Surely you’ve addressed enough juries to understand the power of suggestion.”
* 59:50 ES An American Airlines jet is clearly visible.
* 60:00 ES Caesars Palace, The Mirage, and Treasure Island casinos are all visible.
9 60:32 ES/Dolly An old man lights up a cigarette as he walks behind George Clooney.
10 60:49 WS Continued from previous: a man walks behind George Clooney holding a cigarette.
11 61:00 WS Another man smoking a cigarette is visible for a split second behind George Clooney.
12 61:30 ES/Dolly in A large planter ashtray full of sand & cigarette butts sits beside the elevator as Catherine Zeta Jones & George Clooney enter.
13-14 69:33 ES/Dolly in Matching glass ashtrays are visible on the matching nightstands in the honeymoon suite.
15 71:30 MD The emcee of the matrimonial attorneys conference sits down for a cigarette after introducing George Clooney.
16 71:56 MD Repeat of emcee holding his lit cigarette near his mouth.
17 72:07 MD Repeat of emcee as smoke rises from his implied cigarette held offscreen.
18 72:26 MD Repeat of emcee as smoke rises from his implied cigarette held offscreen.
19 73:13 MD Repeat of emcee holding his lit cigarette near his mouth.
This isolated but blatant cigarette smoking by the conference emcee comes precisely during George Clooney’s climatic heartfelt speech about how love is good…
20 74:04 MD Repeat of emcee as smoke rises from his implied cigarette held offscreen.
21 75:17 MD Repeat of emcee as smoke rises from his implied cigarette held offscreen.
22 75:33 MD Repeat of emcee as smoke rises from his implied cigarette held offscreen.
23 75:40 WS The emcee’s ashtray & lit cigarette are visible as George Clooney leaves the stage.
24 76:56 ES An ashtray is briefly visible on the bar next to George Clooney.
* 77:14 Zoom/CU A Sony brand television is visible.
25 78:12 Dolly in Same glass ashtray seen earlier is visible on nightstand in the honeymoon suite.
26-27 78:21 Dolly in Same glass ashtrays are both visible on the matching nightstands.
28 78:39 OTS Same glass ashtray is visible on the nightstand behind George Clooney.
29 78:50 OTS Same glass ashtray is visible on the nightstand behind George Clooney.
30 79:04 HH Same glass ashtray is visible on the nightstand behind George Clooney.
31 81:00 ES Same brass ashtray on an animal hoof is briefly visible on the desk.
32 81:02 ES Same brass ashtray on an animal hoof is briefly visible on the desk.
* 83:52 ES A California Pizza Kitchen box & some Heineken beer bottles are visible in front of George Clooney.
* 86:21 CU A Vtech brand telephone is clearly visible.

Additional Thoughts…

Intolerable Cruelty (2003) is a real departure from the typical Coens’ fare. Supposedly the Coen brothers wrote the movie for Barry Sonnenfeld to direct but Sonnenfeld dropped out so the Coen brothers decided to make it themselves. The movie is mildly entertaining and features several lines of playful dialog…


George Clooney: You promised to have dinner with me once you were free.

Catherine Zeta Jones: I said I wouldn’t whilst I wasn’t which implies no promise once I am.


The film Intolerable Cruelty (2003) actually registers the fewest number of tobacco incidents of any Coen brothers’ movie on my spreadsheet. Cigarettes seem almost oddly missing from certain scenes of this film, and coincidentally (or not) it is often reviewed by critics as one of the least favorite of all the Coen brother’s flicks. Do you really think that’s a coincidence? The fewest number of tobacco incidents of any Coen brothers movie and also reviewed as the worst in their film arsenal. Really makes you think, doesn’t it!

“Dismiss your vows, your feigned tears, your flattery, for where a heart is hard they make no battery.”

Though the film does contain the fewest number of tobacco incidents overall, you do see alot of other brand names instead so perhaps some kind of alternate funding / product placement was used in the absence of the Coens’ beloved tobacco products.

But unfortunately the Coen brothers didn’t want to release a movie without any tobacco whatsoever… So unsurprisingly there is one particular moment during Intolerable Cruelty (2003) that the Coens felt just wouldn’t be complete without a cigarette break.

After introducing George Clooney at a conference in Las Vegas, the emcee sits down beside the podium and enjoys a cigarette while Clooney gives his difficult but heartfelt speech. This is essentially the only smoker we ever see in the film, but the Coen brothers were still able to carefully illustrate how smoking a cigarette might help to relieve stress at a crucial moment in your life.

Some other interesting elements from Intolerable Cruelty (2003) include a character named Wheezy Joe who often uses a small inhaler to calm his wheezing. Also, George Clooney’s boss “Herb” is a very old man (with a colostomy bag) who is always hooked up to oxygen and other medical machines via tubes and wires. Every time you see the old man however, he also has trouble breathing and his voice sounds like he smoked about four packs a day. This character is actually more wheezy than Wheezy Joe!

On a side note, I noticed something very curious on the DVD bonus features for Intolerable Cruelty (2003). Interestingly, there is a series of over 30 outtakes of an actor saying “Everyone eats berries.” from the film which reminds of a Stanley Kubrick-like tendency by the Coen brothers to capture a moment perfectly… Even a mundane moment such as this which really wouldn’t make or break the overall film.

Also on the DVD bonus features, there is a short interview with the Coen brothers which happens to take place in a little wedding chapel. How priestly! I’m guessing that this is the same wedding chapel that George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones get married in the film. Of the dozens of locations within this movie, why did Joel & Ethan choose to do their interview inside the wedding chapel? If you think about it deeply (like I have), it’s little ideas like this that help to make the Coen brothers seem like they are doing some kind of philanthropic work rather than simply making stupid throwaway films that simply advertise cigarettes to the viewer.

I should also mention one extremely curious thing that really stood out to me personally. Now, I seriously thought I remembered an animated cigarette smoker appearing within the animated opening credit sequence… However after a closer look, the opening credit sequence (which is extremely colorful and uses many old images made into collages) actually features several of the animated figures exhaling red hearts almost like a person blowing smoke rings. So it’s rather interesting that my unconscious bran remembered it another way.

More insights coming soon…