O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Release Year: 2000
Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen (uncredited)
Screenwriter(s): Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Homer (epic poem)
Starring: George Clooney, Tim Blake Nelson, John Turturro, John Goodman, Holly Hunter, Chris Thomas King, Charles Durning, Wayne Duvall, Michael Badalucco
Rating: 2 Oscar Nominations: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Won 1 Golden Globe: Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical (George Clooney)
Set in Mississippi in 1937, O Brother, Where Art Thou? tells the story of three convicts who escape from prison to search for a treasure hidden at the bottom of a valley that is about to be flooded.
The Coens brothers’ take on the depression is a wonderfully fantastical and funny adventure story set to a great and authentic soundtrack. Everything about O Brother seems well thought through, from the movie’s beautifully tinted yellowish hue to the perfectly paced script. In true Coen style, the three convicts meet many a quirky, sinister, or ridiculous character along the way; particularly memorably is John Goodman (Inside Llewyn Davies, 2013) as a bible salesman.The trio itself is a combination of different tempers: the good natured, but slow-witted Delmar O’Donnell (Tim Blake Nelson), the sceptiptical and but loyal Pete Hogwallop (John Turturro), and the trio’s self-appointed leader Ulysses Everett McGill (George Clooney). McGill has got to be Clooney’s greatest comic role, he’s smooth-talking, proud and confident to a fault, a self-serving but likeable Dapper Dan man. Clooney hits every note dead on and the story is first and foremost about their adventure, but touches on many topics of the time in which it is set. Their compagnon on part of their travel is blues guitarist Tommy Johnson (an excellent Chris Thomas King) will get a taste of the nasty racial hatred of that era, they will cross paths with a famous bank robber whose mood swings reflect the time, and the great depression is ever present. O Brother, Where Art Thou? is a fun adventure which takes time for quiet moments, a well written yarn about the journey, rather than achieving a goal. A must see for Coen fans and highly recommended to everyone else.
Although the ancient Greek poet Homer is given writing credit, the movie is only loosely based on his “Odyssey”. The Coen Brothers claim to have never read it but to be only familar with the story through cultural references and other adaptations. However, the movie make many specific references to the original poem. For instance, the blind prophet they meet at the beginning, the one-eyed cyclops (John Goodman’s character), some character names such as Ulysses (Latin form of Odysseus) and Penelope (Odysseus’s wife in the poem, and Clooney’s character’s wife in the movie), among other things.
Picture Copyright: Nordisk Film