If you’re still following the political maneuvers of both parties in the wake of the election, you’ll need a comedy to put it all into perspective. I know it has only been one week since, and I promise that we can’t talk about politics all the time, but the week since has been pure hilarity. Just yesterday, Donald Trump lost a key member of his transition team, a Bush strategist tweeted that his party was angry, entitled and arrogant (duh), and then he ditched the press to go to a steak house. Meanwhile, Donna Brazile, interim chair of the DNC is still covering her ass and Elizabeth Warren has fair weather joined with Bernie to try to wrest control of the party. There’s a whole hell of a lot of maneuvering in just one week, and not all of it is competent.
Luckily for us, Netflix just (re?)added Burn After Reading, a blisteringly misanthropic comedy about the intersection of politics and spying in which, to borrow the phrasing from Kirk Honeycutt, “nothing is at stake, nobody acts with intelligence, and everything ends badly.” This is a story about a bunch of losers trying to scam their way to the top after mistaking a bitchy memoir for CIA secrets and selling it to the Russians. The Coen’s might as well have named this Sound And Fury, not because it has a connection to the Faulkner novel, but because it signifies nothing.
Released in 2008, Burn After Reading was The Coens’ follow-up to their Best Picture winner, No Country For Old Men. It’s easy to look at it as The Coens releasing the valve of a high tension cynical thriller western. But, 2008 was also an election year following the bizarre tenure of President George W. Bush. At the time, many saw it as a repudiation on the past 8 years of gaffes and basic lies and incompetence. It felt like a commentary on the rise of internal spying under the guise of the PATRIOT Act and a repudiation of every egomaniacal moron in the nation’s capital. Everybody from the gum chewing personal trainers to the CIA directors participate in the league of morons that define our political situation. This is how a system is created. We all need to laugh again.
Burn After Reading streams on Netflix