Top 5 Coen Brothers Comedies

In honor of Suburbicon making its way to theaters on October 27th, I think it’d be a good idea to give everyone a crash course on the history of the Coen brothers and how they got here.  While Suburbicon is directed by George Clooney, who is long-standing member of the Coen brothers’ bench — like many filmmakers, they use the same actors again and again — the film is still written by Joel and Ethan Coen and I’d hazard to guess that they had a hand in helping Mr. Clooney direct.  Their filmography is pretty extensive, but they generally make two kinds of movies: comedies, and very philosophical, artsy dramas.  So, since Suburbicon falls into the former category, for this article, I’d like to focus on the comedies.

5. Burn After Reading

Burn After Reading is a comedic take on a CIA thriller that takes off when a CIA analyst played by John Malkovich begins to write a memoir.  A copy of the memoir is inadvertently left at a gym where the dopey Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt) and Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand) find it and think they’ve stumbled onto a treasure trove of active CIA secrets.  The real jewel of this movie is the comedic performances of the cast.  Brad Pitt’s portrayal of a pretty boy gym rat trying desperately to act like he fits into the world of the CIA is one of his best.  Jon Malkovich has a number of winning scenes, one of the best being when he finally meets up with Brad Pitt’s character.  However, there’s no shortage of great scenes in this flick — George Clooney excitedly giving his wife a very… sensual birthday present, and all the scenes where the CIA director tries to make sense of the ongoing ‘situation’ stand out.  Objectively, it’s not the best Coen brothers comedy, perhaps because it lacks the visual ingenuity of a lot of their greatest movies, but it’s a strong showing.

4. The Hudsucker Proxy

The Hudsucker Proxy is about a man named Norville Barnes, played by Tim Robbins, as he pursues his dreams of making it in business in the late 1950s.  Coming to the big city with small town charm, he tries to pitch his idea for the hoola hoop to the executives of the company he works at, Hudsucker Industries.  Incredibly, his terribly performed pitch is accepted and, not only that, he’s hired on to be the new CEO — little does Norville know that it’s all a setup from the conspiratorial board member Sid Mussberger, played by Paul Newman.  The previous CEO of had committed suicide, and Sid hatched a plot to tank the stock price of the company so he and the board could initiate a buyback.  He thought Norville’s idea was so stupid that when he heard it, he figured if he promoted him to CEO the stock price of the company would plummet.  Unfortunately, the hoola hoop becomes a national hit, and Norville gets caught up in his own inflated ego and loses the respect of the person who helped him on his ‘rise’ — a fast-talking reporter pulled straight out of Some Like it Hot.  Like most Coen brothers movies, the film is filled with down to Earth moment-to-moment humor, and Tim Robbins does an excellent job of bringing the laughs.