O Brother Where Art Thou? (2000) / Comedy-Adventure
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for some violence and language
Running Time: 106 min.
Cast: George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson, John Goodman, Holly Hunter
Director: Joel Coen
Screenplay: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen (based on "The Odyssey", by Homer)
Review published December 23, 2000
There are a few filmmakers which I loathe to review, not because I dislike their movies, but because no review, no matter how honest or heartfelt, will be good enough to please their diehard fans. As an example, Terry Gilliam's army of fans write me occasionally on how I need to rewatch Time Bandits or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and to keep rewatching them over and over until I see them as the landmark cinematic masterpieces the director's cult following does. To this extent, I know that there are certain elements out there who have nothing better to do than to scour the internet in search of anything written or associated with the objects of their obsession, and when they come across my humble webpage, they are inflamed with outrage that I do not give every piece of celluloid their favorite director is associated with the highest of grades.
With this fact in mind, here is the Coen brothers latest, and in my opinion worst, film, O Brother Where Art Thou? I have been a huge fan of the Coens since Blood Simple, and have enjoyed each and every film they have produced -- even the barely passable Big Lebowski had enough funny moments to recommend. So it is with sadness that I have to write a negative review to any of their films, especially when it seems they put so much time and effort into it.
The story, extremely loosely based on Homer's epic poem "The Odyssey", follows three escaped convicts set out to recover a stash of stolen money left at one of the mens' houses slated to be washed away by the building of a new dam. Many perils stand in the way between the men and their destination, including cops, crazy southerners, and even the KKK.
The problem with O Brother Where Art Thou? comes not from a lack of inspiration, bad acting, poor directing, lazy writing, or any other reason one would think of when great filmmakers turn in a dud. No, the problem in this case comes from the long stretches of boredom induced by a story that just isn't very compelling. Clearly there are some terrific scenes, memorable moments and well-developed characterizations, as with all Coen features, but this film just lacks the excitement I usually feel while watching any of their other films.
They say one can measure the worth of a film by how often one looks at his watch during the showing, and while this isn't the most sleep-inducing film I've ever seen, I must admit that every scene after the 75 minute mark had me hoping it would be the last. Sure, there is a charm to the characters and it's moments of ingenuity, but just not enough "oomph" to make me genuinely interested in any of the players or their overall stories.
After saying all of this, I can now eagerly await my e-mail from the latest outrages Coen brothers fan telling me to rewatch O Brother Where Art Thou? until I concur as to it's earth-shattering brilliance, but I'm afraid I won't be able to oblige in this case...I could barely stay awake through the first viewing and highly doubt I could sit through another.
©2000 Vince Leo