Movie Magazine International

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

USA - 2000

Movie Review By Larry Carlin

It's that time of year, film fans, when there is a rush to get films released in order to be considered for Oscar nominations. And if you are in the mood to sift through the holiday drivel to get to the good stuff, you know that you can count on the Coen Brothers to offer something of significance, and their new film is called O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Back to 1937 they go with a comedic retelling of Homer's "The Odyssey," with George Clooney as effusive Everett Ulysses McGill, a trivial criminal with a penchant for pomade who escapes from a chain gang with two dimwitted sidekicks -- John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson -- chained to his ankles. The three stumble along just ahead of the law in search for freedom, with the goal of reaching Clooney's buried treasure. Along the way they encounter a guitar playing bluesman -- who sold his soul to the devil down at the crossroads -- who tells them they can "get paid money for singing into a tin can." They happen by a radio station where they record the song "I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow," and the song becomes a hit without them knowing it. In their travels they meet many interesting characters such as John Goodman as a one-eyed bible salesman, a maniacal Baby Face Nelson played by Michael Badalucco, some seductive sirens, the KKK, Charles Durning as an unctuous governor running for re-election, and Holly Hunter as Clooney's wife who wants nothing to do with him.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? was written, directed, and produced in tandem by brothers Joel and Ethan Coen, who also gave us such gems as Fargo, Blood Simple, and Raising Arizona. As you might expect in a Coen Brothers film, there is lots of skewering going on, as politics, racism, and religion are all examined. Marvelous performances abound by all, with smaller scene-stealers by larger-than-life characters Goodman and Durning. And the soundtrack is one of the best in recent memory, with lots of bluegrass and traditional tunes by the likes of Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, John Hartford, Ralph Stanley, and others. Did someone say Grammys?

Like Homer's classic tale "The Odyssey," O Brother, Where Art Thou? is destined to become another cinematic classic by the Coen Brothers, and for Movie Magazine, I'm Larry Carlin.

© 2000 - Larry Carlin - Air Date: 12/27/00

"Movie Magazine International" Movie Review Index

"Movie Magazine International" Home Page