O Brother Where Art Thou?
O Brother Where Art Thou? The most overlooked movie of the last year easily has to be the Coen Brothers O Brother Where Art Thou?

This is a tremendous film that should have gotten a hell of a lot more attention than it did. It didn’t help that many critics attempting to review this film had their heads up their asses. I actually read one critic who called this movie a musical. A musical for God’s sake??!!!! Can you imagine any statement turning off a prospective audience member more than that? Musicals just don’t sell in the 21st century. Music does feature very prominently in the film, so much so, that it could almost be described as another character in the movie, but this does not make a musical.

The story follows 3 escaped convicts played by George Clooney, Tim Blake Nelson, and John Turturro, as they make their way across the country, supposedly to dig up treasure buried by Clooney. In reality, he is trying to make it back home to prevent the marriage of his wife Penny, wonderfully played by Holly Hunter, to another man.

Along the way they run into a one eyed preacher played by John Goodman, a young black man named Tommy Johnson (Chris Thomas King) who sold his soul to the devil, an obvious reference to Robert Johnson, the KKK, a group of sirens, and a number of other strange characters. They also manage to record a hit song billed as the Soggy Bottom Boys. Their new celebrity status is, of course, not something they are aware of.

All of their adventures strongly echo Homer’s Odyssey, on which this story is loosely based, with the added elements of blues mythology and southern gospel. Many of the references to Greek Mythology are extremely clever, such as John Goodman’s one eyed preacher, an obvious reference to the Cyclops of the story. Holly Hunter’s Penny is, of course, Penelope, etc.

This is one of the other reasons that the movie is so misunderstood and may be not as appreciated as it should be. How many people, including critics, have any point of reference when it comes to Greek mythology? My guess is very few. The number of people in the general public able to recognize these references is probably even smaller. This is a shame because people with an open mind will find a movie filled to the brim with interesting characters, great music, and some of the best acting of the year. I must admit I was absolutely shocked by George Clooney’s performance. This character fit him like a glove and is so far removed from what he usually plays that you might think he had a stunt acting double do his part. Too bad he doesn’t try this hard in other movies. The other standout performance is by Tim Blake Nelson, who is an absolute revelation. As an added bonus, he sings one of the songs in the movie. George Clooney lip synchs his parts. (His voice is provided by Dan Tyminski, of Alison Kraus’ band Union Station.)

Anyway, if you have a little bit of knowledge of Greek mythology, love “good” hillbilly music (not the crap churned out by hacks like Garth Brooks and Shania Twain), and interesting characters then this is the film for you. Any Coen brothers fan worth his or her weight in gold will not miss this film. After all, can anyone, including Greg Postles, come up with any other writing/directing team with a better track record than the Coen’s?  As far as I am concerned they have batted 1000. There is not a loser in the bunch. Even the films that were initially panned and thought unworthy of them, like The Hudsucker Proxy, have undergone critical reevaluation for the better. See this movie and broaden your horizons a little. It might hurt a little, but you’ll be all the better for it. You’ll become rich, have friends, lots of dates, and no longer be called a loser!!!
Chris Ceder
Appleton, WI