O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Homer in the Deep South? O Brother Where Art Thou is the Coen brothers' interpretation of The Odyssey set in 1930s Mississippi. It is every bit as strange and quirky as anybody would expect, and every bit as enjoyable as their other movies. The Coens take many of the epic elements of the classic story including a cyclops, the sirens, and even some of the names, and transform it into a strange trip in a stranger South complete with fat sycophantic politicians and a good old-fashioned political election, cross burnings, racists, floods, chain gangs, idiots and bank robbers.

Aside from the story, the music is the most important element of O Brother Where Art Thou?. The Coens enlisted producer T. Bone Burnett to write the music for the film, who in turn enlisted the help of people like Allison Krauss, Gillian Welch, Ralph Stanley, and Emmylou Harris. The wonderful songs permeate the scenes and help establish the mood and time period of the film. The major song is "Man of Constant Sorrow," recorded by The Soggy Bottom Boys, which was actually Ulysses Everett McGill, Delmar, and Pete. The three escaped from prison, and under the leadership of McGill (George Clooney, The Perfect Storm, Three Kings) are trying to look for a treasure he buried. Along the way, they recorded a song that unbeknownst to them, became a big hit. The pomade-loving, fast-talking McGill is the Odysseus character, undergoing a long journey to find his way home to his wife Penelope, er, Penny (Holly Hunter, Jesus' Son, Time Code).

Clooney gives his funniest performance to date. John Turturro (Illuminata, Cradle Will Rock) and Tim Blake Nelson (The Thin Red Line, Donnie Brasco) complement McGill as Pete and Delmar, respectively, two dim bulbs whose combined intelligence is still far lower than McGill's. Nevertheless, it is still McGill's mouth and love for 'Dapper Dan' hair pomade that gets them into trouble. By working with a constant stable of actors (who here also include John Goodman), director Joel Coen and writer Ethan Coen are able to have instant rapport and bring out good performances. The cast and crew already work well together, so they are able to create a certain level of synergy in the work that shows up on film as more natural. The script is replete with amusing dialogue and bizarre situations, which is the norm for the Coens. O Brother, Where Art Thou? is another film to add to their weird and wonderful catalogue.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 43 minutes, Rated PG-13 for some violence and language.

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