Movie review: O Brother, Where Art Thou (Three Stars)

Theatrical release poster

Movie review: O Brother, Where Art Thou by Coen brothers

Three Stars

This 2000 farce starring George Clooney is “loosely based” on Homer’s Odyssey. The key word is loosely. Our supposed Ulysses escapes from jail and stumbles through many adventures trying to get home before his wife remarries. No Penelope she.

“I’m the pater familias.”

Along the way they encounter characters suggested by Homer’s epic who mostly impede their progress. Subplots include contacts with “Baby Face” Nelson (who died in 1934), the Tennessee Valley Authority building dams that flooded out many homesteads, and a coming gubernatorial election. At one point they are saved by a miracle: shades of Moby Dick.

Ulysses Everett McGill is nothing like his namesake, but that seems to be the point. The whole story turns Homer upside down. But this wasn’t about history or literature; it’s a farce capitalizing on Clooney’s box office draw. It worked.

“You ain’t no kind of man if you don’t have land.”

The most jarring element of the movie is its stilted take on race relations in 1937 Mississippi. Bigotry and hatred show, but the feel-good ending implies that most folks of that time and place rejected the Klan and prejudice. Sadly, that wasn’t so. Still, it’s hard to fault that in a movie whose goal was to be funny and optimistic.

“We’re going to see a brave new world … like they did in France.”

Period folk music pervades the movie, some of it integral to the plot. It’s the best part of the movie. The sound track won a Grammy.

“I am a man of constant sorrows.”