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O Brother Where Art Thou  

The Coen brothers are back again. Their latest film is inspired by Homer's The Odyssey and it's their least violent film to date. The story starts out following three convicts who have escaped from an Alabama chain gang in the 1920's. The leader Ulysses Everett Mc Gill (played by the man who can't miss these days George Clooney) is a fast talking charmer who is slightly smarter then the average convict. He convinces two other prisoners to escape with him by promising them a share of bank robbery money he has buried near his house. The always excellent John Turturro plays the feisty dimwit Pete Hogwollop and Tim Blake Nelson plays the simple loveable dimwit Delmar O'Donnell. The three men work beautifully off of each other and despite being outlaws they possess a high degree of charm and you can't help liking them. When both Mc Gill and Hogwollop proclaim themselves in charge and look to Delmar for a deciding vote, He replies "Well I'm with you fellers." That answer is good enough for the other two and the men move on their merry way. The movie is chock full of these moments.
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The men are on a race against time to get the loot because the valley where it's buried is due to be flooded. Like the men in the Odyssey, the trio runs into constant obstacles and goes from being dirt poor to being well off and back to dirt poor several times. Characters from the Odyssey all make an appearance in this film in one form or another. The sirens, in this film a Baptist congregation who's singing lures Pete and Delmar to be baptized, are there. The lotus-eaters, who get the men drunk and turn one into a frog (well sort of), are there. And then you have the bible selling, Klan meeting attending Cyclops who is played by Coen regular John Goodman. The three also meet up with real life characters from the 1920's. Tommy Johnson who has just sold his soul to the devil, similar to blues guitarist Robert Johnson, and George " Babyface" Nelson, a manic-depressive bank robber who gives the boys a lift in the middle of one of his crime sprees. The men bound in and out of trouble until they get to Ulysses hometown. His ex wife (Holly Hunter) is planning to marry another man. Ulysses must fight off her suitor and win her back.

The look of this film is amazing. Roger Deakins' cinematography is fantastic. The landscapes, sets and costumes and the film stock they use really capture the old southern feeling. I have noticed that since Fargo the Coens are less likely to use camera tricks movement and edits to achieve humor. They are more likely to rely on their writing and the actor's delivery to deliver the jokes. That decision works very well with the tone of the story.

This is a quirky off beat silly film that I found to be very funny. The film is perfectly cast. I can't recall watching a film where the lead actor looked like he was having as good a time as George Clooney looked like he had making this film. The timing is crisp the writing is sharp. I loved it, but I don't think that everyone is going to like it as much as I did. The Coen brothers style is not exactly mainstream, neither is this film. I would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of the Coen brothers work or anyone who knows the story of The Odyssey and likes off beat screwball comedies. If you didn't like Fargo or Raising Arizona most likely this film isn't for you. If you did like them, run out and get a ticket. On a scale of One to Ten, O Brother, Where Art Thou? gets an Eight.

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