ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BOB WADE
“Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” Rated PG-13. I give it a 4 on a scale of 5.
The opening of the Coen brothers’ movie “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” says the film is based on Homer’s “Odyssey.”
But, before local literature enthusiasts get too excited about the possibilities of a modern adaptation of the classic tale, they should understand that the movie only touches on some of the aspects of the epic poem.
The main character, Ulysses Everett McGill (George Clooney), is a man yearning to return home, just as the hero of the Homeric story longs to see his wife and homeland again. Both journeys include advice from blind prophets, and both feature encounters with beautiful women and a Cyclops-like character.
Here the similarities end, however, and that is my main complaint about the movie. If it is to be based on the “Odyssey,” then by all means it should be similar enough so the average viewer, at least those who studied the classic tale in high school, should be able to recognize the connection.
Other than the opening credit line, I’m not sure I would have put the two plots together on my own.
Clooney’s character, who has an obsession with his hair care, tells his two Mississippi chain-gang partners, the slack-jawed Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson) and the short-tempered Pete (John Turturro), that $1.2 million in loot from an armored car robbery lies buried on the McGill home place. The trio is driven to action by the planned flooding in two weeks of the valley where the cabin is located.
Throughout their quest, they happen across a variety of situations and quirky characters in the fashion that often dots the landscapes of films by Joel and Ethan Coen (consider “Fargo” as an example). Those making appearances in the movie include Holly Hunter, Charles Durning and John Goodman.
Whether a viewer will enjoy “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” depends on several key factors.
First, he or she must like “old-timey” bluegrass music, or at least be able to tolerate it because it permeates the movie more than a typical score would. The soundtrack, which reads like a Nashville who’s who, was supervised by T Bone Burnett.
Second, the viewer must be able to accept the characters as caricatures rather than real-life people.
Third, he or she must have a high tolerance for swearing, though the movie contains little in terms of sexual references or nudity. This is not a movie for young teens. Nearly everyone in the movie has a foul mouth and often takes the Lord’s name in vain.
Finally, the viewer must be able to handle the disjointed feel that comes from the Coens’ handling of the script.
“Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” perhaps could have been subtitled: “The Grand Ol’ Opry Meets the Blues Brothers.” The film borders on the genre of the musical, but it might best be described as simply unique.
For those viewers who prefer a more traditional type of movie, this film is best avoided. For those looking for something different this summer, give it a try.
Bob Wade is a local video enthusiast. The videos he reviews are provided by Radio Shack/Quick Flick, 110 N. Main, Hillsboro.