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15 reviews, 167 user ratings

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O Brother, Where Art Thou?
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by Mark Freeman

"Going Homer"
5 stars

There is a point in the Coen Brothers’ new film O Brother Where Art Thou where seduction works side by side: on screen and in the theatre. It’s been going on all along, really, the goofy, endearing characters, the glorious gold plains, the gentle, alluring spirituals and the energetic bluegrass music – it’s all irresistible. But as Everett (George Clooney), Pete (John Turturro) and Delmer (Tim Blake Nelson) find themselves sidetracked, spellbound by the crooning of three sirens as they pass a nearby creek, the seduction is complete.

It’s a perfect sequence, played slowly, breathlessly, and seems to suspend time for its duration as the three escapees succumb to the pleasures of the flesh. You know that by the end of this, as the men fall like limp puppets into the arms of these women, that you too have been wooed, seduced, conned. O Brother Where Art Thou? works on this premise of seduction and capitulation on any number of levels, and uses any number of devices to do so. It’s easier and far more pleasurable to give into the richness of this film, and surrender to its musicality, its dreams and its delirious delight in human fallibility and spiritual rebirth. O Brother Where Art Thou sits with the Coen’s most accomplished work, easily as good as, if not superior to films such as Fargo, Miller’s Crossing, or my own personal favourite, the anarchic Raising Arizona.

In fact, of their past work, O Brother most resembles Raising Arizona in its yearning for family, and its twangy distortion of reality. Yet this is a film also based on the earliest of literature: Homer’s epic The Odyssey, and captures its rambling, episodic narrative, its adventures and escapes, its sense of purpose and purposelessness. Escaping from a chain gang, the three convicts head to find a buried treasure, but are warned by a blind seer at the beginning of their journey "You will find a fortune, but not the fortune you seek". Close on their heels is the emotionless, hellish Sheriff Cooley (Daniel Von Bargen) who tracks them down, desperate to end their ‘odyssey". And of course, as with Homer’s tale there are the various beasts and foes to be encountered along the way before their journey is complete. As well as the sirens, the three escapees battle the Cyclops, Big Dan Teague (John Goodman) and finally meet up with the long deserted Penelope (Holly Hunter). A run-in with the bipolar Babyface Nelson (James Badalucco) sees the trio dragged into armed robbery, and musician Tommy Johnson (Chris Thomas King) leads them to a Klan meeting. Throw in an election and a recording made by the jailbreakers under the title of the Soggy Bottom Boys and you begin to get some idea of the episodic, rambling nature of this film. There are so many disparate elements to O Brother Where Art Thou that it almost seems an impossibility to keep them all together. Yet the Coens manage to do this through a number of methods. Certainly the cinematography and production design by Roger Deakins and Dennis Gassner respectively help hold the films together in a cohesive vision. Small towns, flat plains, dense forests all seem to hold both beauty and surprise, things seem to erupt from these landscapes. The opening sequence sees the escapees bobbing up suddenly in a tobacco field, later a congregation appear like angels from a forest heading down to the river for baptism; Babyface Nelson appears over a rise in the endless road, bank notes billowing carelessly behind him. The America O Brother constructs is one of infinite opportunities at a time of desperate poverty. The Depression prompts both the dishonest and the spiritual, the cunning and the innocent, and the Coens throw all of these elements together to see how they will pan out.

The Coens have had a dream run – even their less accomplished films like The Hudsucker Proxy have at least been ambitious if not always successful. Their wrong step – for me, anyway – was their last film, The Big Lebowski that had some nice sequences, but was essentially a boorish, unfunny, poorly acted film that seemed to disappear up its own deconstructed pretensions. It’s something of a relief, then, to see in their next film a return to the well judged, well written, well performed production the brothers have pretty much guaranteed audiences in the past. John Goodman is an actor who too often overwhelms a Coen film, and that was certainly the case in The Big Lebowski. But in O Brother his role is relatively minor, and he isn’t given too much opportunity to tilt the balance of the film. Other minor players like Badalucco and Charles Durning as Governor Pappy O’Daniel give perfectly judged performances, and there is never a sense of ‘showing off’ or scene stealing from them, and it gives the film a great sense of community, a cohesion and uniformity that works to its advantage. In the leads, Turturro and Nelson give solid, goofy performances, but it really is Clooney as the wandering Everett Ulysses McGill that centres the film. Clooney has grown out of his television skin and now seems perfectly at home on screen – he seems more and more confident and assured with each film. In O Brother Where Art Thou, Clooney perfects the fast talking, fast thinking Everett, the man on the make, the one with the plans. His similarity to Clark Gable is deliberately pronounced here; it’s almost like It Happened One Night but with a jail break. His scenes with Holly Hunter as the neglected Penny perfectly tread a fine line between hustle and heartbreak; no easy task, especially in a film that never seems too keen to cement itself in such realism.

But this is more than a film about jailbirds and freedom. It draws on a range of belief systems and ideals, and compounds them into the one film. So whilst Delmer and Pete might be ‘saved’ by Jesus during an impromptu baptism, they also must save Tommy as the cross burns at the Klan meeting. Big Dan Teague might play the men for suckers, but Babyface Nelson proves inordinately generous, and whilst Penny’s beau Homer Stokes (Wayne Duvall) appears a political wonder, caring for the underclass, it’s Pappy O’Daniel who puts these sentiments into action. And mixed in with this congregation of canon and ideology is a recurrent belief in rebirth and baptism, that people can begin again, wash away the errors of the past, be, in effect, ‘saved’. And salvation can come through music as well as anywhere, and to all intents and purposes, O Brother Where Art Thou is, essentially, a musical. The songs are as much a release for the singers as organised religion; they are a way to make sense of, and break from the day to day reality of their struggles to survive during a time of extreme economic hardship.

The final sequences of the film, which veer from the trusty ‘putting on a show’ of the musical genre to the cataclysm and judgement of a biblical epic marry the mélange of modes that compose O Brother Where Art Thou. It’s part musical, part road movie, part fable, but all combine into a joyous, funny and intelligent film that is, quite seriously, one of the best releases of this year.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=1828&reviewer=243
originally posted: 12/16/00 08:59:30
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User Comments

3/24/18 morris campbell good not great 4 stars
8/30/15 FireWithFire EVERY Coen brothers movie pisses on Whites, this one White Southerners ,before the 196660s. 1 stars
2/14/12 Ron Larson great characters, fantastic music 5 stars
10/05/11 Quigley A highly enjoyable film. One of the Coen's best. Loved the Siren scene. 5 stars
11/23/10 JTBrandt.com I don't get what people like about this movie. Jokes were stupid; soundtrack was annoying. 2 stars
6/01/10 User Name The Southern version of the Odyssey. And, suprisingly, it works. 4 stars
1/18/09 mr.mike Virtually unwatchable. 1 stars
9/17/08 Stu Moments of genius but also slow in parts. Not as good as you´d expect from the Coens. 3 stars
2/09/08 Samantha P i loooove this movie, and the music is awesome, and i hate country music! so entertaining! 5 stars
10/29/07 JeromeBoch Shit smells better. 1 stars
10/10/07 john-paul moore its the best film out 5 stars
2/28/07 Crantor D. Smithen Good premise, painfully rushed and awkward at times. Clooney saves the movie. 3 stars
1/25/06 Jerome Bosch As entertaining as am infomercial, hated the music. 1 stars
12/30/05 Agent Sands One great bit of entertainment. Hilarious, exciting, different. 5 stars
11/10/05 Vina W.O.W 4 stars
9/24/05 D Buckley constant sorrow... 1 stars
8/24/05 ES Kind of a cool song, kinda of a bad movie 2 stars
3/26/05 Jeanne George Clooney's Best - "But you ain't bona fide!" 5 stars
1/21/05 DM Funny shit. "The best thing you ever did for them gals was get hit by that train!" 4 stars
11/26/04 alien assassin the coen Brothers' masterpiece 5 stars
9/25/04 Ken One of the best american movies I've ever seen. Great casting, great musics, wonderfull! 5 stars
9/01/04 Ice Queen Loved it. Hilarious. Great casting. 5 stars
7/08/04 Gray I've been told only a "white male could enjoy this movie" 5 stars
5/30/04 Lindsay Great songs and hilarious, lovable characters! I LOVE it! 5 stars
5/25/04 John they sing a great and bizarre song - the rest is dull and slightly pretentious 2 stars
5/06/04 Ross I bought the soundtrack. 4 stars
5/03/04 Shanette N. Jones different; but great! 4 stars
4/06/04 Uni Girl This is one of many favourite movies for me and all my friends 5 stars
4/05/04 Robin Its awesome.I love that song:im a man of constant sorrow 5 stars
4/05/04 Miss Julie Damn, I love this movie! The Coens deserve a Pulitzer, never mind an Oscar. 5 stars
3/25/04 bikehorn Loved the parallel to the story of Odysseus. Brilliantly written and filmed. Great sndtrk. 5 stars
3/23/04 Kat Bailey Loved it, you have to be a true Southerner to get all the minute references, hilarious! 5 stars
2/19/04 MP Bartley O brother how over-rated and annoying art thou? 2 stars
12/17/03 * An Idiot Who Loves George Clooney* AWSOME GEORGE CLOONEY AT HIS BEST GREAT MOVIE IT FUCKIN'ROX! 5 stars
8/23/03 John Bale A wild happy visual ride with the Coen Bros. Top script and cast 5 stars
8/21/03 Matt Wonderful! A breath of fresh air. Quite infectious. 5 stars
6/22/03 cochese dumb 2 stars
6/22/03 Ashley I loved it ... I love George Clooney ... and hes a Dapper Dan Man!!! 5 stars
5/28/03 Jo Ellis excellent, could watch it over and over again 5 stars
5/17/03 George Jung Anyone who doesn't like this movie can R-U-N-N-O-F-T...or go fuck themselves...whichever. 5 stars
4/11/03 Jack Sommersby Overstated, obvious, and obnoxious. 1 stars
4/09/03 Jack Bourbon I saw this movie while doped-up on cough medicine. I think I was in some sort of trance. 5 stars
1/28/03 Christopher M. Domenick We need this movie. 5 stars
12/30/02 Bob Hardcore Great cinema. Clooney is amazing here. 5 stars
12/30/02 John Aster Habig highly sophisticated slapstick 5 stars
11/27/02 R.W. Welch Not up to "Arizona" but still an enjoyable screwball comedy. 4 stars
10/15/02 Elizaveta we're in a tight spot! 5 stars
10/11/02 andria this movie rocks! absolutely love delmar!! 5 stars
9/28/02 Peter Sherlock I didn't realise Clooney could act. 4 stars
9/03/02 brien George Clooneys best performance since Dusk till Dawn 5 stars
7/29/02 Captain Midol I'm wary of any kind of "updated" classic, but this really hit the mark. Truly amusing. 5 stars
6/09/02 JesseL Excellent. If you know just a little about 'The Odyssey' it means more. 5 stars
6/01/02 Chris Just watch, don't ask questions or think. You'll enjoy it more trust me. 4 stars
4/27/02 Butterbean It's not "The Big Lebowski", but it's visually a treat. 4 stars
4/03/02 Edfink Lombardo Brilliant film with an equally wonderful soundtrack to boot...A true gem of a film 5 stars
4/02/02 El Talboto Excellent picture 5 stars
3/30/02 Film Guy Kick Ass little movie. 4 stars
3/30/02 Film Dude God damn, I never expected this to be so good. 5 stars
3/13/02 Rockitman007 This is one of my all time favorite movies!!!! 5 stars
2/25/02 Crusty For people who have a wandering soul. Funny, feast for the eyes, heartwarming. Top film. 5 stars
2/21/02 Kristi Good Movie! Gotta Love the music too! 5 stars
2/20/02 Xaver Great music. Fun. A little confusing at times. 4 stars
2/01/02 Dar Mulhall Fucking Awesome - soundtrack to match 5 stars
1/23/02 John Wilner It's pure bloodhound shit; another Hollywood lynching of southern white culture. 1 stars
1/15/02 george fountas A superb musical from coen brothers. 5 stars
11/23/01 Andrew Carden Just Not Very Funny, Good Premise Wasted. 2 stars
10/16/01 Mr. Hat (formerly Joe Zappa) Really funny and cool. 4 stars
10/09/01 Kooler Go for the depression-era detail alone. Bonus: Clooney lampoons his own narcissistic image! 4 stars
9/29/01 The Boy In The Designer Bubble Thought I would hate this movie, but I liked it. The slow witted guy was brilliant 4 stars
9/19/01 JLH One of the best movies Ive seen in a long time. Music, story, atmosphere were great. 5 stars
9/16/01 Bri Loved it. Good music. Wacky. Watch on dvd! 5 stars
9/04/01 Amy Nothing annoys me more than a southern twang and music to match yet I adore this movie!!!!! 5 stars
9/01/01 Butterbean Clooney at his cinematic best! Great cinematography! 5 stars
9/01/01 Tory Loved it 5 stars
8/31/01 spaceworm Saw this the day I found out I didn't have cancer. Talk about in the mood. 5 stars
8/18/01 phil m. afficiando Awesome(-) or Worth Look(+); different and emininently entertaining; fun twists/turns 4 stars
8/08/01 moviegoer I thoroughly enjoyed this film and hope to add it to my collection someday. 5 stars
8/06/01 Joe Zappa I've seen a lot of bad movies in my life.....but this was AWESOME!!!!! 5 stars
8/06/01 E-Funk Clooney's best role,Tim Blake's a riot, Turturro's the man, Coen's win again and again... 5 stars
7/27/01 richy c hey gizzy! maybe you were just suffering a mild stroke? i'm concerned about you. 5 stars
7/22/01 Will that was really good. 5 stars
7/21/01 john klepper loved it 5 stars
7/08/01 R.W. Welch Imaginative road pic with some surreal twists. 4 stars
7/07/01 the scarecrow shutup Gizzy, this film kicks ass 5 stars
7/06/01 Indelusia A great movie. Cohen brothers classic, and George Clooney at his best. 5 stars
6/22/01 Steve Ok... 4 stars
6/21/01 MacShogun Watched it numerous times still great! 5 stars
6/21/01 Gizzy I almost dozed off - it's that bad 1 stars
6/18/01 Monday Morning Fresh, totally original and well done. I also like the slightly dark edge. 5 stars
6/16/01 matt I loved this movie!! It was very well written and directed. 5 stars
6/16/01 liam myers nice feel to it 5 stars
6/16/01 I love movies it is beyond my power of comprehension how anyone could EVER find ANYTHING good about this 1 stars
6/13/01 luket anything that makes fun of the kkk is fucking awesome in my book 5 stars
6/10/01 King Jackass The best movie of the year. 5 stars
6/07/01 e j and Roy Smith are gay together THIS MOVIE RULES!!!!!! 5 stars
6/04/01 MM Did you notice the people who didn't like it can't spell worth a damn? 5 stars
6/03/01 e j Sucks all ass is a sever understatement!!!!! 1 stars
5/27/01 Rudy Lupinski Clever and really enjoyable. 5 stars
5/23/01 W.P.G. It was great! 5 stars
5/07/01 jon graham Best film I've seen in years and the music is addictive. Don't miss it on the big screen !! 5 stars
5/07/01 Mikko Salminen Enjoyable, but not amazing in any way. 3 stars
5/06/01 Roy Smith This movie is proff the Coen Brothers signed a pact with the Devil. 1 stars
4/14/01 Blacker than You Good soundtrack 4 stars
4/05/01 Peeters Valentijn Brothers C rule 5 stars
4/01/01 Maja Fantastic !!! 5 stars
3/25/01 Lim Unn How Meaningful! 5 stars
3/22/01 Kyra J. what can i say, damn, we're in a tight spot for not getting this soundtrack yet 5 stars
3/22/01 JB It cute and funny and sometimes hardcore. 4 stars
3/19/01 vpitman I'm a Coen Bros. fan, but my wife isn't, and we both thought it was great. 5 stars
3/14/01 Big John Holmes A picture that doesn't insult the intelligence or imagination of the viewer. 5 stars
3/08/01 Josue The Insultor This was a superb film. 5 stars
3/07/01 Emily It was very random, but that's what made it so hilarious. Geroge is the best part.mmm.sexy! 5 stars
3/06/01 hum best i have seen for some time for so many reasons 5 stars
3/06/01 Soggy Bottom I havent laughed so hard at a movie in ages one of the coens best 5 stars
2/26/01 Monika Frisby Awesome, very funny 5 stars
2/22/01 weird andy A hoot and a half! 4 stars
2/21/01 sjc two thumbs way way up 5 stars
2/20/01 HughK A charming movie, reminds me a little of the Big Lebowski, but even more episodic! 4 stars
2/20/01 Christopher Novak Best movie in the trailing twelve months 5 stars
2/19/01 Roy Smith I hopw there is a God because now I believe in the Devil 1 stars
2/17/01 dan coen-eriffic 5 stars
2/14/01 www.robotocracy.com The smartest, funniest, most thoroughly enjoyable movie I have seen in a long time. 5 stars
2/12/01 KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi I was sorry when it ended. 5 stars
2/11/01 Brian Genius. Coens' most entertaining film to date. Much better than TBL. We're in a tight spot! 5 stars
2/07/01 ObiWan Not the normal Coen Bro. stuff, but very entertaining. One of the year's best. 5 stars
2/06/01 Frog-Butt Absolutely Genius, Brilliant, and.... Well there be frogs in there :-) 5 stars
2/05/01 Wafer This movie just makes you feel good watching it 5 stars
2/04/01 neil bartlett Refreshing change from most Hollywood crap. Clooney surprisingly good 4 stars
2/04/01 Mike Goodpaster Fantastic. The music was great and so was the show. Hollywood needs more of this. 5 stars
2/02/01 Ericka Lindstrom I'm going to have to read Homer's Odyssey. This movie didn't make any sense to me. 3 stars
2/02/01 john d(THE DUDE) The Coen bros, are movie making gods but it's going to be hard to top THE BIG LEBOWSKI 3 stars
1/31/01 Soggy Bottom Bitch George Clooney, his hair and the double-takes were hilarious, & the music worth downloading 5 stars
1/30/01 Ludolecorse The Apology of freedom 5 stars
1/29/01 Marie This film is so kick ass!! No wonder George Clooney won the Golden Globe for this!!! 5 stars
1/28/01 skye ah'm with you fellers 5 stars
1/27/01 R Kramer This was not Clooney's finest. 3 stars
1/24/01 Kirsten Appreciated it on an intellectual level. Didn't make me laugh out loud, though. 4 stars
1/22/01 Soggy Bottom Boy This is by far my favorite Coen Brothers flic, finally over-throwing Barton Fink! 5 stars
1/22/01 Peter Burris superb romp through meshed iconography! 5 stars
1/22/01 Peter Smith STUNNING! 5 stars
1/22/01 Coen fan Fan-fucking-tastic! 5 stars
1/21/01 MC Cheese The music really makes it! A feel good Coen movie! 5 stars
1/17/01 Thor-Leo Weakest Coen Bros. film yet. Clever dialog but a very long setup for a meager payoff. 3 stars
1/17/01 loser funny saw it 3 times 5 stars
1/17/01 Heather Original, quirky movie, loved the music and cinematography. 5 stars
1/16/01 Dee Please, go and see this film 5 stars
1/15/01 Kip George Clooney is great.. definately a good movie. 5 stars
1/13/01 Phil Some people wont get it, other say it's awesome! 5 stars
1/09/01 Ida Kern Clooney is great in this! A musical and a comedy all rolled in one. 4 stars
1/09/01 Blubberbot me like 5 stars
1/03/01 tnt Boring..painful...and pointless...worst movie Ever!!! 1 stars
1/02/01 Mr. X Funny! Great music! Loved it! 5 stars
12/29/00 frankko dialogue, music, cinematography... all perfect 5 stars
12/29/00 matthew smith quirky and strange, but worth a look 4 stars
12/28/00 El_Duderino Can the Coens ever do wrong?? Seems unlikely. 5 stars
12/15/00 Lorenza Venturi Intelligent, ironic, great music 5 stars
12/12/00 Mr. ZmoXz Great characters!!! 4 stars
12/12/00 cooljo coooooooolllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll cool!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
12/02/00 Sebastian Corral This movie is the best comedy I've ever seen! 5 stars
11/02/00 Maria Dolores Valdivia Armental The best film this year, great. 5 stars
10/26/00 Sven Siegle Easy, cool, funny, fantastic! 5 stars
10/25/00 Jens A. Czaplo ... great pictures, great music 5 stars
10/25/00 Schmitt Dirk ... best Odysse in an movie I mind 5 stars
9/26/00 Robin Cooper If you liked The Big Lebowski.... you'll love this 5 stars
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  12-Jan-2001 (PG-13)


  26-Dec-2000 (M)

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