March 12th: O Brother, Where Art Thou?


Release Date: 2000
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen
Why I picked this: I heard it’s very good, and I vaguely remember watching parts of it when I was a kid

A parallell to Homer’s “The Odyssey,” this unconventional comedy has a strange plot structure, but elaborately written dialogue, various funny and ironic moments, and the film’s use of music made for a thoroughly entertaining experience. This film follows three escaped prisoners in 1937, them being Ulysses McGill, played by George Clooney, and presumably the “Odysseus” of the trio, Pete Hogwallop, played by John Turturro, and Delmar O’Donnell, played by Tim Blake Nelson. The three have very good on-screen chemistry; though they don’t always see eye-to-eye, the conversations between the three flow very well. The three have very good Southern accents, and deliver the intricately written Southern dialogue effortlessly. Clooney was the less believable, but I will concede that it is probably due to how different his character is. Turturro and Nelson have more simple-minded characters (moreso for Nelson’s character), and Ulysses fancies himself as someone who is well-spoken. The parallels to “The Odyssey” aren’t exactly subtle; there is a “blind prophet” who foreshadows many of the events at the beginning of the film, three “Sirens” who seduce the trio with their singing, and a violent “cyclops” played by John Goodman. There is a subplot involving two politicians running for the election of the Governor of Mississipi, but their subplot never comes into play in the main story until the end; I found this subplot to be mostly unentertaining and pointless. This movie has a great use of music within the story; Ulysses, Pete, and Delmar, along with guitar player Tommy Johnson, played by Chris Thomas King, unknowingly become a hit on the radio waves with their version of folk song “Man of Constant Sorrow,” becoming known as the “Soggy Bottom Boys.” The soundtrack of the movie almost has a life of its own. However, I found the climax involving singing and the politicians to be a little standard when seen with other Hollywood movies. Daniel von Bargen has a role as the sheriff hunting the three after their escape from prison; he is foreshadowed to be an evil character, with fire being reflected on his sunglasses. However, I don’t believe he was in this movie enough. I loved the cinematography by Roger Deakins; the movie had a very appropriate brown and dry look, and matched with the rest of the visual and audio elements of them film.

Plot gripes aside, this unusual comedy has three great leads, a great visual look, and one of the more memorable movie soundtracks.


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