O Brother Where Art Thou?

george-clooney-o-brotherDid you know that O Brother Where Art Thou? is an homage to/rip off of Homer’s Odyssey?  Probably.  Did you know that neither of the Coen brothers read the Odyssey before writing this movie?  Probably not.  Having not read the Odyssey myself, I can’t say how accurate the movie is, but when the songs are so toe-tappingly great (in a depression-era sort of way), any lingering concerns about literary accuracy quickly fade.

If you read our site even a little bit, you probably know we are big fans of the Coens.  O Brother is the third Coen brothers film I ever saw (Barton Fink was the first, thoroughly confusing ao-brother-where-art-thound terrifying me at age 14, and Fargo was the second, and at age 20 I was not quite ready to embrace the weird mix of funny accents and wood-chipper gore).  I remember finding O Brother much less creepy than Barton Fink and much easier to digest than Fargo (while also noticing that funny accents were featured in all three).  In fact, I would give this movie most of the credit for making me track down other Coen brothers movies instead of writing them off as more of the same from the guys who were responsible for John Goodman and Peter Stormare stalking me in my nightmares.  So thanks, O Brother, for being my gateway drug to The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men, Inside Llewyn Davis, Hail Caesar, and so many more!

Basically, if you haven’t seen O Brother, you should.  It’s not necessarily a classic, and for my money it’s lingering somewhere in the o-brothermiddle of the pack for the Coens, but it’s a great appetizer for their other stuff.  It’s also a fun standalone movie that has a fantastic soundtrack and a bunch of crazy characters doing strange things.  And if you have seen it, why not see it again, if only to notice for the first time (like I just did) that frequent Coen collaborator John Turturro is one of O Brother’s main characters.  Either way, you can’t lose!

O Brother gets a score of eight soggy bottoms out of ten.

 

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31 thoughts on “O Brother Where Art Thou?

    1. Sean Post author

      I think that’s a common reaction to the Coens, and it matches up with how I felt initially. But as I watched more of their stuff, I really connected with their oddball humour and now I watch everything I can from them (one of the main reasons I checked out Bridge of Spies on a plane was because they co-wrote it).

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  1. John Charet

    Great review 🙂 I have 16 favorite Coen Brothers films and 14 of them are great films 🙂 As far as their great ones go, I would place O Brother Where Art Thou? (2000) in seventh place after The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001), The Ladykillers (2004), The Big Lebowski (1998), A Serious Man (2009), True Grit (2010) and No Country for Old Men (2007) 🙂 Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

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    1. Sean Post author

      For me, Fargo, No Country for Old Men, Inside Llewyn Davis, Barton Fink and The Big Lebowski are my favourites in some order. But I haven’t seen all of their films yet so that’s subject to change!

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  2. Michelle

    This is a favorite and I do like the Coen Brothers but I don’t think I have seen as many of their movies as you guys have. When Fargo was released I didn’t see it until it came out in dvds and even then I didn’t watch all of it, still haven’t but I am curious to finish it. I did really like O Brother and True Grit

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    1. Sean Post author

      Fargo has really grown on me since that first viewing, it’s one of my favourites. Marge Gunderson is so awesome, and Jerry is so inept, that it never gets old.

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  3. Jordan Dodd

    Hehe, I love the way you talk about the Coens. I am obsessed too, totally. Oddly though, this is one of their only movies I haven’t seen. You’ve changed that, I already own the bloody blu-ray! I’m watching it now 😀

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  4. Pingback: CRUISIN’ ROUND THE BLOGOSPHERE #3 | epileptic moondancer

      1. mikeladano

        I never have either, just know the basics. What can I say, I think this film is brilliant. It’s not just Homer but draws upon the mythology of the Delta blue too. Tommy Johnson is an obvious reference to Robert Johnson…there was a “hellhound” of sorts on his trail in the film.

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    1. Sean Post author

      They really are eclectic, you’re right. The Coens have a really impressive body of work however you measure it, but it’s amazing how different their movies are from one another.

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    1. Sean Post author

      Fargo is fantastic. Have you seen Inside Llewyn Davis? That one comes to mind as one from their catalogue that you might enjoy. Both Oscar Isaac and the soundtrack are amazing (and Isaac actually sings!).

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  5. Birgit

    I bet the brothers must have at least known about the saga. I enjoyed this movie quite a bit because it’s so unique…love the scene when they come across the “muses”

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    1. Sean Post author

      The Coens definitely knew about the Odyssey and intentionally used its elements, but they never actually read the poem. Instead they relied on other adaptations and pop culture references to the Odyssey for inspiration when writing this movie. According to Ethan Coen, Tim Blake Nelson, who has a degree in classics, was the only person on set (including the Coens) that had read the Odyssey.

      http://www.theguardian.com/film/2000/may/19/culture.features

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  6. sidekickreviews

    I didn’t really get this movie. I also don’t know much about the Odyssey, other than a TV movie I watched a while back, which was very different from “O Brother”. I do like a lot of other Coens Bros movies, it’s interesting to see what they come up with next.

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  7. ridicuryder

    Sean,

    I like most of the Cohen’s movies. I found it interesting that my ex hated this movie but it wound up in her pile of stuff! I don’t know much about the Odyssey, but the way this story wanders is interesting.

    RR

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  8. Christopher

    Okay, no one else has said it so I will: the claim that “O Brother Where Art Thou?” is based on The Odyssey is like the claim that “Fargo” is based on a true story. There are a few tips of the hat to The Odyssey but claiming it’s based on Homer’s epic is one of those jokes the Coens played on audiences.
    The film actually owes a lot more to a 1942 film called “Sullivan’s Travels” directed by Preston Sturges about a film director named John Sullivan who makes lighthearted comedies but wants to make a serious picture and sets off across America to do research.
    The serious picture Sullivan wants to do is called “O Brother Where Art Thou?”

    “Sullivan’s Travels” is a comedy that takes a very dark turn in its third act and worth checking out. It’s no surprise the Coens, film aficionados, like it.

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