Review: O Brother, Where Art Thou?

From looking at the cover, reading the blurb, watching the trailer or even hearing the soundtrack before watching the film can be quite deceptive. One would imagine that from this material alone the film is not really something worth watching. Oh how this could not be more further from the truth.

The timeless story of the Odyssey has been re-done and set in the early era of the 20th century. Three escaped convicts are our guides as they take us on a ride of music, drama, mystery, evil, comedy and love in a truly human film.

If you don’t know the story of the Odyssey then there are small sections of this film you will not be able to fully understand. It is best to just take in the music and wonderful cinematography in those moments. Besides the somewhat required prior knowledge this film is one of the more rewarding cinema expereinces.

The music is traditional “old timey” music of the Southern American persuasion. It is sometimes a little hard to get into if you have never really listend to it, however as time goes by and perhaps you here it more than once you begin to enjoy it more and more. Certainly I was not overly impressed with the headline song “Man of Constant Sorrow” when I first heard it but now I truly enjoy listening to it.

The drama is first class, combining tragedy, evil and love as well as the human spirit in a plot that is unique and inventive. Some people may not notice and I don’t want to spoil it but listen carefully and you may find the devil makes an appearance on a number of occasions. The story is two lines of traffic meeting at the cross-roads. Firstly the escaped convicts being chased by the law and secondly the Pappy O’Daniel campaign for governer. The low level simplicity of this plot is quite deceptive, with the introduction of “them Sirens”, the big one eyed ogre of John Goodman, Homer Stokes and his little man and their big lynch mob ritual the simple plot becomes very very amusing, unique and often heart warming. The major point to take away is nothing is as it appears on the surface, sometime if you listen and think hard enough you will notice things you would of never thought of.

The comedy is somewhat a different paradigm to the normal one liner “duh duh” Amercian style humour. You need to use your brain to understand alot of it and it is only when you really get into the story and the characters that you begin to laugh and laugh heartily. The comedy can fail to suck you in but I think that is a backlash from the fact that this movie is so different to most mainstream styles of comedy. If you begin watching with an open mind then you find it much more enjoyable than if you expect a certain brand of comedy.

The visual style is also something that is refreshing and different to other films. You get the distinct impression that every single shot no matter how small has been carefully crafted and executed to perfection. Combined with the wonderful music you can often lose yourself in the very Southern American Autumn colours. There are some shots that are so perfect you could print them off and frame them as legitmate first class photographic art.

The final peice of this amazing artistic puzzle is the humanity of the film. The slow conversations set to a guitar soundtrack about the simple things in life are truly heart warming and give these characters so much depth it makes other good films characters look like cardboard cut-outs. By the end of the film you truly feel for these characters. Their depth is only matched by their stupidity and one can wonder how they achieved so much in the film whilst still maintaining a real un-intelligent persona. Don’t fear however, it is not anything like “Dumb and Dumber”. This film stays well away from toilet humour and maintains its own self respect. If you have been dying for strong characters of enormous depth then this movie is for you!

On that note I suggest you “R-U-N-N-O-F-T” down to the video store and find out for yourself what your missing out on. Remember if you are not impressed with the tripe ‘Hollywood’ produces alomst 100% of the time, this may not be the perfect answer but it is a very good refreshing enlightening change.

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Filed under Adventure, Comedy, Crime, Film Reviews

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