Director: Joel Coen Writers: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen Starring: George Clooney, Tim Blake Nelson, John Turturro Runtime: 106 min Rating: PG
The Coen brothers welcomed in the new millennium with this feature film based on Homer’s celebrated epic Greek poem, The Odyssey. An adventure full of danger and romance, O Brother, Where Art Thou? is one of the Coens’s most whimsical and joyful works.
When eloquent and charismatic Ulysses Everett McGill (George Clooney) manages to escape from prison with the help of dimwits Pete Hogwallop (John Turturro) and Delmar O’Donell (Tim Blake Nelson), he allegedly sets out to find a treasure that will make the three of them rich. With no money, transportation, or any other resources to count on, the three men must improvise in order to escape the authorities and successfully tread through 1930s Mississippi and find the promised riches. The road, however, is filled with obstacles that will test their opportunism, and they face many barriers in order to achieve what they set out to obtain. Filled with relatable and witty references to the epic poem, O Brother, Where Art Thou? is an exploration of the absurd, in a film that makes use of talent in order to create a light-hearted experience that does not care for taking itself too seriously.
Although George Clooney may not be the greatest actor to ever walk Hollywood, he certainly can do no harm. He suits his character perfectly, and although every line is not delivered to perfection, it still compliments the overall scheme of the film. The fact that George Clooney is playing Ulysses takes a whole new meaning, and it becomes one of the film’s indications that it is a fun film that was in need of exactly that which Clooney can provide: an entertaining performance, with flaws, but permeated with his charm and charisma. His interaction and contrast with Tim Blake Nelson and John Turturro is also very entertaining and charming, and the trio has a great dynamic that creates interest for their well-beings. Although their antics are mostly caused by sheer stupidity, they are endearing, and they are great vessels in which the story is placed. John Goodman’s appearance as the Bible-salesman Big Dan Teague is brief but effective, and it is interesting to see it resonate with the Coens’s Barton Fink, where Goodman also played a salesman with something to hide.
Joel and Ethan Coen excel with this script, which is full of witty nuances and strange scenarios. As in many other instances, they prove that they have the ability to provide each character with an individual personality, which creates a more realistic and enjoyable immersion within the film. The feature is also set to a fantastic soundtrack. Music is a big part not only of the story, but of setting the mood of fable in the film. George Clooney singing for the Soggy Bottom Boys is unforgettable, and the comedic note the song provides is a gateway to understanding how this film takes itself very lightly. The music is all-around jolly and lovely, and it is a very enjoyable experience melodiously.
For the spectators who have not read The Odyssey, the film is every bit as entertaining as it is for those with knowledge of Homer’s work. However, for those familiar with the story, it is very amusing to discover the Coens’s revision of the classic tale. This film is loosely based on the story, and spectators will find that the feature is very similar to the epic on which it is based, yet with creative and new scenarios that make for a light-hearted take on the more serious, yet equally adventurous poem. O Brother, Where Art Thou? is also an epic, but a more absurd and jovial experience for the modern viewer.