CinemaDave (cinemadave) wrote,

2000 Review: Music Rules "O Brother Where Art Thou?"

"O Brother, Where Art Thou?" is a movie that is about
other things. The title is a reference from a 1930's
Depression era Preston Sturges classic, "Sullivan's
Travels." Joel McCrea portrayed a movie producer who
wants to make depressing artsy smartsy movies, only to
learn that what everybody really needs is a good
laugh. However, as this new movie reveals, humor is in the
eye of the beholder.

This new movie opens when 3 escaped convicts break out
of jail to find a buried treasure in the deep South.
Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson) is a slow witted yokel who
undergoes a religious conversion. With slightly more
brain cells, Pete (John Turturro) tags along only to
be seduced by Sirens doing their laundry. Ulysses
Evert McGill (George Clooney) is the leader of this
bunch because he appears to have the vocabulary of a
9th Grader. Along the way, the convicts are pursued
by a devilish law enforcer who likes to burn down

Joel and Ethan Coen have written their screenplay
using both James Joyce and Homer's Odyssey as the
framing narrative. Unfortunately, "O Brother Where Art
Thou?" fails to grasp the literary symbolism it seeks.
This film is far more successful when it refers to
modern day pop culture sensibilities. The 3 convicts
are obviously patterned after the 3 Stooges and the
Klu Klux Klan rally is made to look like the
footsoldiers for the Wicked Witch of the West. Yet,
it's a curiosity that this disjointed film has been
Oscar nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay.

George Clooney won the Golden Globe for his
performance in this film. Being a native Kentuckian,
Clooney masters the accent and seems to be having the
time of his life. Charles Durning portrays an incumbent
politician who may be facing an electoral defeat.
Durning was nominated for Best Supporting actor 18
years ago for dancing a little political two step in
"The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas." The joy of
seeing this movie is watching this tubby D-Day Veteran
reprise his jig.

Another joy of seeing this movie is to listen to the
Soggy Bottom Boys sing "Man of Lonesome Sorrow." One
escapade has our three heroes record the song.
Unbeknowst to them, the record becomes a hit and the 3
convicts become the depression era's version of

While it's hard to dislike the serpia tone good
intentions of the film's creators, "Oh Brother, Where
Art Thou?" suffers from a scattered tone. While the
Coen Brothers may have fallen off their high literary
mound, "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" can at least
satisfy the "Smokey and the Bandit" crowd.
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