Retro Review: O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Those wacky Cohen Brothers are at it again. This time they have enlisted the services of George Clooney, Holly Hunter, John Turturro, and John Candy.

Loosely based on Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ the movie chronicles the adventures of three convicts Everett Ulysses McGill, Delmar and Pete in 1930s Mississippi. The trio escapes a prison outfit and tries to reach Everett’s home to recover the buried loot of a bank heist.

The threesome is confronted by a series of strange characters including a trio of sirens, a Cyclops (John Candy), bank robber George ‘Babyface’ Nelson (Michael Badalucco), a campaigning Governor (Charles Durning), his opponent, a KKK lynch mob, and a blind prophet, who warns the trio that “the treasure you seek shall not be the treasure you find.”

I don’t think I really get the Cohens. I really liked “Fargo” but I really haven’t gotten their films post “Fargo”. I guess the same is with this one. There was a lot here that I admired but I can’t really say I enjoyed it.

What I admired was the authentic look and fading of the print to make the film look old. I also really enjoyed Clooney who is probably taking the biggest risk here. This kind of project shows he definitely has depth. I liked his character and the presence he brought to Everett. He was definitely the stand-out of this project. Other interesting elements might lay in the political campaign gripping Mississippi. I liked the candidates and their conflict. I especially liked the KKK connection even though it was quite convenient.

This film is really hard to enjoy and criticize because I am still a little shocked to what it was trying to say. There are a lot of quirky characters that are valid and are well acted but how they fit into the whole scope of the film is still an enigma. I lost track of over half of them after they left the screen for more than five minutes. I was told after seeing this film that you would really enjoy it if you knew Homer’s Odyssey quite well. This does beg the question, how many movie-goers actually do?

The over all pacing is pretty slow and with so many different and quirky characters (some quite brutal) it’s going to be hard for the average movie-goer to enjoy.

(3 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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