O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?, an adaptation of Homer's classic tale, "The
Odyssey," is by none other than the Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan. You
know, the ones who brought us THE BIG LEBOWSKI and FARGO. Don't worry,
there aren't any subtitles, and the adaptation is loose, very loose.
This version concerns three hayseeds who escape from a Mississippi chain
gang. Set during the Depression, the film's imaginative cinematography
looks like a print left out to bake in the hot Mississippi sun, which
makes the heat palpable.
The convicts, Everett Ulysses McGill (George Clooney), Pete Hogwallop
(John Turturro) and Delmar O'Donnel (Tim Blake Nelson), might be called
a bunch of half-wits except that they don't have a whole brain among
them. With an angry group of state police chasing them, they are
heading for some buried loot. They only have a few days since a new dam
will shortly flood the area. If they can get there in time, they figure
that they can split the $1.2 million among them, giving each of them
The cat-and-mouse story meanders like a leaf drifting lazily on a
stagnant pond. The movie's salvation lies in the eclectic songs and
music, which feature old-timey gospel and country tunes. The gang of
three, calling themselves "The Soggy Bottom Boys," record a hit record,
which gives them more fame than their criminal exploits ever did. The
film uses music heavily, including a magical scene of singing muses
sitting on large boulders in a river. This gives you reason to look for
the music video and the CD of the soundtrack. It doesn't, however,
provide you enough reason to see the picture, which lacks one essential
ingredient, humor. This is a comedy in which I didn't laugh once nor
did those around me.
The Coen brothers are brilliant visual stylists, which they amply
demonstrated in FARGO and do so again in this film. Many scenes give
you much to admire, even if not much to like.
"I'm awful pleased my adventuring days have come to an end," Everett
says at the story's conclusion. And so was I. I just wish that it had
come much sooner and that I had just seen a music video of the film's
singing finale rather than having to sit through the entire movie.
O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? runs a long 1:46. It is rated PG-13 for some
violence and language and would be acceptable for kids around 10 and up.
Copyright © 2000 Steve Rhodes