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Overall Rating

Awesome: 21.21%
Worth A Look42.42%
Just Average: 25.76%
Pretty Crappy: 3.03%
Sucks: 7.58%

5 reviews, 36 user ratings

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by EricDSnider

"'O' Shakespeare, Where Art Thou?"
3 stars

“O” was filmed in 1999, but not released until now due to some unfortunate resemblances it allegedly bore to the Columbine shooting. Lions Gate delayed the film to avoid stirring up bad memories and appearing exploitative.

All of this is good for “O.” Without the backstage drama, the film would barely rate a second thought. It is marked by some good scenes, some nice moments, some solid acting ... and some rather hackish scenes, moments and acting, too. It is less than the sum of its parts, though not altogether a bad picture.

It is Shakespeare’s “Othello” retold in a modern high school, which seems like a perfect fit. Shakespearean plays are known for their heightened emotion and a feeling that anything good is WONDERFUL and anything bad is TRAGIC, with no middle ground. High school, you’ll recall, is the same way: The Big Dance is the most important thing in the world, and being rejected by someone you’re in love with is clearly the worst thing that has ever happened to anyone.

The new setting is a private school in South Carolina where basketball is king. The star player and Othello counterpart is Odin James (Mekhi Phifer), whose athletic abilities make him fiercely admired, but who still remains something of an outsider due to his being the only black student in school.

He chooses to share his Most Valuable Player award with Michael Casio (Andrew Keegan), which enrages fellow player Hugo Goulding (Josh Hartnett). Hugo feels he’s more important to the team than Michael, and he’s already jealous that his father, the coach (Martin Sheen), seems to love Odin more than him.

So Hugo (whose name is consistently pronounced “Yugo” to make it sound more like “Othello’s” Iago) begins scheming, with little motivation to speak of, to disrupt the lives of others. He targets the relationship between Odin and rich girl Desi (Julia Stiles), using his toady Roger (Elden Henson) to start fights and dig dirt.

You can tell the film will end tragically even without knowing anything about “Othello,” simply from the mood director Tim Blake Nelson establishes. The first batch of short, ominous scenes reveal that nearly everyone has some dark secret or other. This turns out to be unfair on the movie’s part when some things — like Odin’s run-ins with the law and Hugo’s steroid use — wind up going unused. They were introduced, it would seem, just to give us a sense of impending doom, like telling visitors your house is haunted and then never bringing it up again.

Hartnett is coolly evil as Hugo, and Phifer portrays the underwritten Odin with great fervor. He makes the most of the few moments Brad Kaaya’s script gives him in which to shine. His final speech, basically from Shakespeare but adapted to modern language, is poetic and passionate.

Then there’s Julia Stiles, dour as always, and Martin Sheen, who seems to have been filtered through Regis Philbin. Both detract from the film, though Sheen is more at fault than Stiles, who is just being the sourpuss she always is.

The dialogue varies. Some of it sounds stilted and forced, like it’s been translated directly from another language. Other sections are straight-up teen flick fare. And some key moments, like the speech previously mentioned, capture the dark, melodramatic flavor of the Bard himself.

When it’s all over, one must wonder what all the fuss was about. The finale has no similarities to the Columbine killings, except that it involves teens shooting each other, and it’s certainly not the first movie to do that. Its message — hinted at in an opening voice-over from Hugo and spelled out with his last couple lines — would be a fine one, if it had been established over the course of the film. This is a movie that holds your interest, but doesn’t do anything with it.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=1731&reviewer=247
originally posted: 08/30/01 17:44:12
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User Comments

1/13/16 FireWithFire Racist against Whites much, Tim? 1 stars
8/22/05 Michelle ohiofreebird Nice supplement to Othello in literature classroom 4 stars
4/10/04 ahmed ali 3 stars
1/27/04 Rapunzel Gladstone Decent typical Julia Stiles vehicle; this movie STILL has too short a "search string". 3 stars
9/22/03 Kelli love mekhi, and josh 4 stars
9/04/03 aj after reading the paly the movie did no justice to shakespears eternal masterpeice 2 stars
5/18/03 George Jung Great direction could not save this pointless movie. 1 stars
4/19/03 Dillon Harnett is better than the movie; he can act, surprise surprise 4 stars
4/18/03 Jack Sommersby Sophomoric and imprecise. A real waste of time and money. 1 stars
11/25/02 Othello: chump wit no radar fo' "that lean and hungry look" "O": fool ain't got sense nuff to check pastyfaces' bs ON HIS OWN. Hell Nawww!!!! 1 stars
9/26/02 artemishia WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER W/OUT STILES 3 stars
9/19/02 Brad I'm proud to tell my friends I wasn't bitchslapped. Thanks, Brad Kaaya 5 stars
8/31/02 Robbie Banfitch Very surprised, thought it was going to end like every other teen movie, but defied cliche 5 stars
8/26/02 I Can't Swim None of the actors are talented enough to tell such a powerful story 3 stars
6/13/02 malcolm zero character development, still a classic tale 3 stars
6/10/02 I'm in (L) with a Jedi mmm...very underrated, very good 5 stars
6/01/02 stud AWSOME 5 stars
4/02/02 Film Guy Freaky Movie, Didnt like Rape 5 stars
3/02/02 Butterbean You don't believe that kids could be this stupid? Read the papers. Awesome take on Othello! 5 stars
1/31/02 Ashley Corpening Does Shakespeare's version, like this, have no likeable characters? 2 stars
1/30/02 Jay I was really moved by this. All kids and parants with kids should see this flick. 5 stars
12/03/01 Andrew Carden Julia Stilies Is Just An Excellent Actress. 5 stars
11/12/01 Missy I enjoyed it,it was very intense and shows what people will actually fall to ..to get what 4 stars
10/29/01 ash cool one 5 stars
10/21/01 Lisa Cornelius WOW !! 5 stars
9/20/01 Nebula Stayed true to the original. Excellent acting all around. 4 stars
9/11/01 derek deems an incrediably powerful ending to follow up a not-as-interesting movie. 4 stars
9/08/01 Carly David I am an English teacher and it is right in step with the bard!! 5 stars
9/04/01 ron20003 Only for idotic teens. A waste. 1 stars
9/03/01 spaceworm Wow, it was just like Shakespeare's "Othello"! 4 stars
9/01/01 Bill Dawson This movie just like every English teacher in America sucks. Chemistry and Physics rule!!! 5 stars
9/01/01 JB Good movie. Pop actors have chops! 4 stars
8/31/01 Leah This movie was great! Josh Hartnett is a great actor! 5 stars
8/29/01 Jaded Josh Hartnett is a great actor, but underappreciated because of his teen star status 4 stars
8/28/01 Jade best teen movie i have seen in a very long time. 4 stars
7/26/01 Jay Every teen will see this movie 5 stars
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  31-Aug-2001 (R)



Directed by
  Tim Blake Nelson

Written by
  Brad Kaaya

  Mekhi Phifer
  Julia Stiles
  Rain Phoenix
  Josh Hartnett
  John Heard
  Martin Sheen

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