O Brother, Where Art Thou?


Directed by: Joel Coen
Written by:Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Starring: George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson, Charles Durning, John Goodman, Michael Badalucco, Holly Hunter, Stephen Root
Released: December 26, 2000
Grade: B-

Everett Ulysses McGill (Clooney), Pete Hopwallop (Turturro) and Delmar O’Donnel (Tim Blake Nelson) are three convicts who have just escaped from the penitentiary and are after a buried treasure.  Everett knows the location and is going to lead the trio into fortune.  It’s a long journey they will need to take and along the trip they will meet an assortment of characters. 

I have described the film ever so briefly above but there is little more I can add without spoiling most the film.  Ethan and Joel Coen are brave and adventurous filmmakers themselves but no matter how hard you try, you can’t get it right all the time.  O Brother, Where Art Thou? is based on Homer’s poem, The Odyssey, written almost 3,000 years ago.  Of course there is still conjecture today as to whether Homer even existed but that’s another story.

The cast are all well rounded.  Both George Clooney and Tim Blake Nelson are superb and I love seeing John Goodman in action.  Extravagant lengths have been taken to set up many scenes, which is fine work on behalf of production designer, Dennis Gassner.  The Coen brothers’ most recent film, The Big Lebowski, took several viewings to fully appreciate and did grow on me.  Perhaps O Brother, Where Art Thou? may do the same but right now, I feel let down.

Bottom line, it’s a very strange film that many will enjoy and others simply will not.  There are a few musical numbers mixed with totally bizarre subplots.  It is an interesting trip but upon reaching the end, I just didn’t understand the point.  I know Homer said “the journey’s the thing” but in this instance, I wanted more appreciation.