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Burn After Reading

I saw Burn After Reading this weekend with similarsmell ,iatethecookie , and a young lady who works at the coffee shop.It wasn't a great movie, but well worth the time spent watching it and the admission price. The first third of the movie was spent setting up the very labyrinthine plot, and during that time I had a hard time getting a handle on the movie. That's really the only reason my praise is tempered. After all the necessary establishment of the plot and the characters, it was a regular madcap romp.

The plot involves a recently fired CIA agent (played by John Malkovich) who decides to write his memoirs. He puts them on a CD. Later he thinks he has lost the CD and a dimwitted physical trainer at a nearby gym,played by Brad Pitt.  thinks he has found it. (You'll have to see the movie to find out what I mean by "think".) He and his co-worker (played by Frances McDormand) cook up a blackmail scheme, largely to fund some plastic surgery that the McDormand character wants. And there are some other subplots about romantic hanky panky that get tied in neatly (or as neatly as they can be in a movie with this much plot) with the blackmail and espionage plot.

The casting and acting are superb. John Malkovich is great as an asshole, Brad Pitt is great as a moron, and George Clooney is great as a moronic asshole. My opinion of Frances McDormand as the best actress working today remains intact. She made her character, ethically challenged as she was, oddly likable. There were also good performances by performers in smaller roles. JR Horne (the guy that plays Mister Turkeyneck in the FedEx commercial) is good as a divorce lawyer. Dermot Mulroney is part of a great running gag where he plays himself.

The best performance in the movie, IMHO, was JK Simmons (the father in Juno) as a cynical, world weary CIA chief. He only has a couple of very brief scenes, but he's great in them and is very instrumental in wrapping up a lot of plot points. He pretty much showed up at the end and stole the whole movie.  I haven't seen an actor do so much with so little screen time since Wilford Brimley in Absence Of Malice.