I have walked out of a Coen movie before and not quite known how to feel. The two best examples of that are The Big Lebowski and Fargo. Lebowski was so ridiculously original and so filled with strange humour that I had to like it. On the other hand, there were some unnecessary reveries with flying people and killer bowling balls that just didn't seem to fit the mold of the film. Still, I liked the film and now own a copy of it. Fargo made me howl with hysterics, sometimes I wasn't sure why I was laughing so hard that it made me cry, but nonetheless I was. There were many seemingly strange characters in Fargo, but upon further investigation, they were really just real people talking about real situations. That is why the man with the shovel ( or was it a broom ) was so side-splittingly funny when he was telling the police officer about some funny looking man down at the bar the other night. And that is also why the theater erupted in laughter when he then says that there are some funny looking clouds coming in. (I own a copy of this film too) The Coen's have a way of masking their film and their characters as being somewhat eccentric and perhaps a little off the wall. But if you look closer at some of those same characters that seem zany, you will always find that in some strange way, they all ring true. That is what is quite exceptional about O Brother Where Art Thou? This is a film that is out there. I mean it is not even in the same ballpark as a traditional film. I reviewed the film Shaft this past summer and in it I said that Shaft was an okay film that I have seen a thousand times before. But you can not say that about a Coen Brother's film and you most certainly can not say that about this one.
This film has everything in it from a jail break, crooked southern politicians, muses, references to what I can only assume are historical figures, riverside baptisms, bank robberies, violence towards animals, singing flocks of religious fanatics, KKK, lynch mobs and so on. There are obviously many references to Homer's Odyssey in here as well, but I wouldn't know that because I have never read Homer's Odyssey or even knew one thing about it. Every other newspaper reviewer seems to know all about it and they think that this cynicism and almost spoof-like quality towards it makes the film that much better. Well coming from a guy who doesn't know anything about it, I can tell you that it is still an entertaining film. There were times when again, as is usual for a Coen film, I wasn't sure why I was entertained or laughing, but I was.
This is a road picture where three men travel along the way to find a hidden treasure that Clooney says he has hidden to his two other cell mates. He has to take them along because they were also chained to him when they had their chance to escape.
I like all the principal actors in the film and many of them are Coen cronies. It was nice to see Goodman again. It was nice to see Hunter and especially Turturro who seems to have a place in every Coen film. It's too bad they didn't find a place for Steve Buscemi but that is a different story all together. But back to Clooney. The man just has charisma. He is a one hell of an actor as well and here he is not quite as zany as the others but even he has his own idiosyncrasies. His work here is quite awesome and I really hope this shows that he is capable of playing any range of character.
Now after heaping all this praise on the film, let me just say this as well. I didn't really enjoy the film at first. I found it to be quite tedious and a little boring. There were too many ideas in here and not enough care went into harnessing them for all what they were worth. But then the film began to grow on me. It took a while but it did grow on me. I don't think this is their best film, but it is still a good one and I am giving it a 8.5. But the reason that I do recommend this film is for one reason only.
Every day you can go look into the paper and look at the films that are playing and say to yourself, seen it, seen it, oh, seen it last year, that is the same as this film and that is the same as that film. Most films have been recycled in some form or another. Not the Coen's films. They have not been recycled and if they have I don't know about it. That is reason enough to see something that they put out. Originality counts for a lot in my books. The Coens are original and they are good. And that is not common in todays cinema. Enjoy them while they are allowed to make films. Because you don't get vision like this in many films, so when you do, enjoy it!