O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?, the first film in too long of a while to 
inspire pre-screening giddies in Yours Coen-Loving, is, alas, anoth-
er post-FARGO falter for Joel and Ethan.  Despite stunning photogra-
phy, a splendid soundtrack, and the usual treasure trove of colorful 
absurdities, this Deep South-set, Depression-era, comic retelling of 
Homer's "Odyssey" is strictly HOA.  Hollow on arrival.  George Clo-
oney, in full, old-time movie-star mode, stars as the smartest of 
three chain-gang escapees.  Er, make that the *only* smart escapee, 
as his two partners in resumed crime are both substantially lower on 
the ol' evolutionary ladder.  (John Tuturro and Tim Blake Nelson-- 
who?-- play Slack-Jawed and Slacker-Jawed.)  First shuffling, then 
running free, the three have adventures a-plenty as they race to re-
cover some long-stashed stash.  (Or so one of the three characters 

Let's see, along the way they meet a blind prophet, cut a smash sin-
gle (as the "Soggy Bottom Boys"), get dunked by Baptist preachers, 
and even give a lift to budding blues guitarist "Tommy" Johnson, who 
they find standing at the fabled crossroads the morning after a lit-
tle soul-selling!  Yup, 'tis indeed an *epic* tale, right down to 
the Sirens' song that beckons the boys to the riverside, where they 
find three beauties singin' hymns and warsh-ing clothes.  LOL.  And 
all of it aglow with the filmmaker's many trademark touches-- gee-
whiz camera work, ear-tickling dialogue (usually deadpan), extra-ex-
aggerated eccentricities, and at least one stunning set-piece, a 
straight-played production number featuring dancing Klansmen (!) and 
one whopper of a WIZARD OF OZ (!!) reference.  Hilarious.  Absolute-
ly hilarious. 

O BROTHER also features an exceptionally rich soundtrack of freshly 
recorded period pieces-- gospel, country, and old-timey mountain mu-
sic that, while *way* too hi-fi sounding, is an extra-special plea-
sure.  (And Clooney's singing is dubbed, as if you can't tell...)
Also fabulous is Roger Deakin's vibrant, slightly overexposed photo-
graphy.  With its yellow tinting, the daylight shots, in particular, 
possess an appealing, soft, sorta-sepia tone.  Yup, another embaras-
sment of riches from the Coens.  Too bad the whole thing is so... 
relentlessly hollow.  In fact, Clooney's performance-- manic, wide-
eyed, and chatty as all get-out-- best exemplifies this.  He's all
slicked up with nowhere to go.  The lights are on-- and brightly 
so!-- but nobody's home.  Not in his performance, nor in the film 
itself.  Eh, call the most stylishly shot Three Stooges short ever.
Just with way less slapstick...   With Charles Durning, John Good-
man, Michael Badalucco, and Holly Hunter.  (Rated "PG-13"/106 min.)
Grade: C

Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

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Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros -Movie Hell™ is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros