O Brother, Where Art Thou?, written and directed by the famous Coen Brothers, tries to retell in a new fashion Homer’s The Odyssey for a modern audience. In a more honest summary, the film tells the story of Ulysses, played to the film’s strength by George Clooney, an escaped convict who tries to search for his ex-wife with the help of his two accomplices, Delmar and Pete, (Tim Blake Nelson, John Turturro). The film as a whole, although with a stellar cast chemistry and refined dialogue, can’t seem to find its footing in regards to the story and pacing. Of the which make the viewer ask “O Brother, Where Thy Point?”
The idea of adapting Homer’s The Odyssey, when done correctly, can be exceptionally creative. The writer could implement modern story techniques to retell now-outdated mythology, into something the modern viewer can identify with. O Brother, Where Art Thou attempts to do this task, but ultimately fails in most aspects. Before watching the film, I lightly studied the story of The Odyssey, and the story deals with tons of mythologies and very fictionalized creatures. The film tries to implement a sort-of mystic sense to it, but makes the film feel convoluted and messy. For example, John Goodman plays the film’s version of the cyclops, who is actually a salesman-turned-KKK member, which is implemented really well. However, you have the issue of the ending, which involves flooding and a cow on a house, which just does not fit in a movie that is grounded in reality.
Due to the mediocre attempt on trying to adapt The Odyssey into the modern age, this has an effect on the storytelling. The plot ends up being contrived and all over the place, especially when they implement the relationship between Ulysses and his ex-wife. Whenever they try to implement some sort of grounded pathos into the story, it gets too mixed up with their attempt to adapt the story, thus leading to the horrible pacing.
The biggest and most notable strength of the film is the casting. The main three characters that go on the journey, played by George Clooney, Tim Blake Nelson, and John Turturro, are the standouts of the film. The chemistry of Ulysses, Delmar, and Pete are what keep this movie afloat. Their constant banter and self-absorbed manner is utterly hilarious to watch. Even when it’s just one of the three onscreen, it’s amazing to see how they can hold their own without the other two. I personally believe the stellar dialogue between the three main characters is what kept me from walking out of the room, completely disengaged.O Brother, Where Art Thou is a movie not for everyone, and I think that includes me. I actually enjoyed the movie upon first viewing, however after thinking about it I started to not like it as much. It depends really on if you, as a viewer, can ignore the shortcomings of the plot and pacing, and just focus on the characters. However for myself, I personally prefer a genuine adventure over characters. If the adventure isn’t fun, why bother with interesting characters? So I ask, “O Brother, Where Thy Point?”.