O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) Review

Directors: Joel & Ethan Coen

Runtime: 107 minutes

Cast: George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson, John Goodman, Holly Hunter, Chris Thomas King, Charles Durning, et al…

Plot (taken from IMDb): In the deep south during the 1930s, three escaped convicts search for hidden treasure while a relentless lawman pursues them.


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The Coen Brothers love their character studies, don’t they? O Brother, Where Art Thou? Which is loosely based on Homer’s Odyssey, tells the story of Everett (George Clooney), Pete (John Turturro) and Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson) – three convicts on the run from the law, after a stash of hidden treasure, that would help them set their lives on a better path.

Like plenty of other Coen Brothers’ productions, O Brother, Where Art Thou? is about its characters first and foremost. Along their journey, Everett, Pete and Delmar meet some pretty interesting people and find themselves in some pretty incredible situations. As with most Coen Brothers’ productions, too, O Brother, Where Art Thou? is often hilarious, quirky and spectacularly well made. O Brother, Where Art Thou? however, is a glorious mixture of The Big Lebowski, Raising Arizona and Inside Llewyn Davis, rising above all three effortlessly.

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This is a ridiculously funny movie. I was often recoiled in hysterics throughout the film’s 107 minutes runtime. Situations such as two of the three believing their friend had been turned into a toad provided more laughs than most films manage in two hours. O Brother, Where Art Thou? is funny throughout, with plenty of quirky characters making the three amigos’ lives and plans much more difficult. This wouldn’t be a Coen Brothers movie without John Goodman making an appearance, for example. Here he arrives as one of the film’s antagonists – a Bible salesman hell-bent on violence. Goodman’s character brings me onto another strong aspect of the movie outside of its brilliant, hilarious script.

The acting is quality from all involved, not only the always fantastic John Goodman. George Clooney’s Everett controls situations in his own, inimitable fashion – a wordsmith and thinker, thinking himself smarter than the average criminal. It’s a performance full of charm and confidence, with an essence of failure. Then we have John Turturro’s Pete, who’s a little dim, but well-meaning and Tim Blake Nelson’s Delmar, who’s more than a little dim. The three make for a great group, and the relationship between them is a huge amount of fun. Clooney, Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson are all on top form here, not to mention John Goodman’s brilliant turn and the whole host of supporting roles.

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Just as good as the acting and script is the soundtrack. Little did I know when I sat down to watch it, that O Brother, Where Art Thou? would feature several high-quality musical numbers. Indeed, music is quite integral to the film’s plot. Turns out, that our escaped convicts are pretty darn good singers. The funny thing is, however, that they don’t ever realise just how good they are. Throughout you are willing the three (plus a fourth, who sold his soul to the devil to become a successful musician) to realise that all they need to do is sing to find a career and new life – here’s the cheese – their voices are the treasure they’re looking for.

From the music, acting and wonderful script we find ourselves discussing the film’s sets and looks. O Brother, Where Art Thou? is a handsome movie. It captures the era with terrific ease, the slightly muted colours give the film an almost sepia quality, harking back to the days of the sepia photograph. The surroundings look lush and unspoiled. This is a movie about the good old days of America, where life was simpler. It’s nostalgic about the era and full of old-time charm. Don’t be completely fooled by the sights and sounds of 1930s USA, as along with the nostalgia and charm comes the darkness of the period, with KKK rallies, dodgy politicians and living hard-up broke.

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The Coen Brothers are masters of their craft, and O Brother, Where Art Thou? showcases all that is great about them. It’s hilarious, superbly made, carries a staggering cast with its fine script and it effortlessly captures the era in which it is set. This film is a treat for the senses and is sure to brighten any day, for anybody. Sit down with the family and watch O Brother, Where Art Thou?


5/5

The Coen Brothers at their best. O Brother, Where Art Thou? is hilarious, beautiful and staggeringly well-made. A true classic.

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