Customer Review

114 of 119 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Come on in, Boys, the Water is Fine..., January 28, 2006
This review is from: O Brother, Where Art Thou? (DVD)
I'm a big fan of the Coen Bros., including Raising Arizona, and esp. Fargo, so I was expecting to enjoy this.

What I was not expecting was that I would be absolutely enraptured by it. I was so enveloped by the sense of place, the razor sharp acting, the constant self-inflicted misfortune, and especially the music. The music! What a stunning, skillfully rendered and executed soundtrack. I didn't realize what I was missing all these years, ignoring bluegrass the way I did.

Well, back to the movie.

I don't have to repeat all about the movie being based on Homer's Odyssey... oops, just did. Well, that aside, I spent some time thinking about what touched me and made this so enjoyable, more than nearly every other movie I've ever seen. I found many things.

Of course, the casting is delightful. Where do you find people who can pull off Clooney's sidekicks the way they did. If I met John Turturro or Tim Blake Nelson on the street, I would probably be just shocked to find they aren't doltish hillbillies! John Goodman is a perfect cyclops, in a goofy, ominous, hulkish way, and Christ Thomas King, who I believe is really known for his guitar playing, still plays the understated Tommy Johnson beautifully, as if it makes perfect sense to meet the devil at a crossroads in the middle of nowhere and sell your soul to him for a good dose of guitar skill. I could go on and on about the cast, but you won't find a sour note in there. You'll be convinced that none of these people could live anywhere but the Depression ear South. Before I move on from the cast, something that goes unmentioned a lot, is the brilliant performances by some of the bit players, such as Frank Collison as Wash Hogwallop, Stephen Root as the Radio Station guy, and Millford Fortenberry as the Geographical Oddity storekeeper. It may seem easy to do a small part for a little time, but this really underscores the Coen Bros. talent for getting a pitch perfect performance from every actor, no matter how small the part.

Much has been made of the music... and rightly so! I suppose it was less than surprising to learn that the music was actually a large part of the genesis of this movie. You could almost say that this is a musical of sorts, not of the broadway style, but some sort of hybrid, as only the Coen Bros. can do. My favorite musical moments are probably nearly the same as everyone else's, such as Man of Constant Sorrow. How can you not just love that song? The Sirens singing Didnt' Leave Nobody But the Baby with the way they used those rags for their loose-boned and sultry rhythm would certainly be tough to resist :) O Death at a KKK rally, what a sendup that was! The horrifying ridiculousness of that strangely choreographed scene was reminiscent of everything from the Nazi's Nuremberg rally to the Wicked Witch's guards from the Wizard of Oz (tell me you don't hear an echo of their "Oh we love--Noooo one" at the beginning of that scene.) But I have to admit I was strangely moved and affected by my favorite scene, Down in the River to Pray, the baptism scene. There was something beautiful, serene, and noble about those people in white, moving toward a turning point of purity and devotion down to be immersed in their new life. I loved it, utterly.

You may have noticed by this time that I haven't really mentioned Clooney but in passing. There's a reason for that. Probably the one thing that most deeply moved me was the character of Ulysses Everett McGill. Though it's not obvious at first, I think Everett is a beautifully developed, complex character. As the movie went on, I began to see him as insecure, loaded with good intentions, but without the inner strength to carry them out, full of regrets, yet a slave to his own passions and his desire to be admired. When we begin to realize that what Everett's looking for is to get his wife back, the whole situation seems just delightfully silly at first. But underneath, Clooney manages to display McGill's sensitive and wounded heart. He's terribly insecure and masks his insecurity with too much talk and a know-it-all attitude, as well as his addiction to Dapper Dan and his own appearance. A very telling scene is in the Geographical Oddity shop, when he obviously wants to tell off the shopkeeper who can't get his car part or his Dapper Dan for two weeks. He's mad and looks to storm out, but instead he crumbles and buys the pomade and hair nets. I think a lot of people miss that one. Everett is lost in a mess of his own making and is desperate to find that one rope strong enough to pull him out of the hole he's in. I think we all know people, or have one time *been* people who have become mired in their poor decisions and are further derailed by their attempts to circumvent the consequences. When people like this get that one opportunity to escape their pattern of failure they often miss it, but once in a while they grab hold and make it. I'll let you see what really happens in the movie, but George Clooney and the Coen Bros. have wrought a beautiful, tragically flawed, yet good and loving at heart protagonist and should be long recognized for it.

I cannot recommend this movie enough, aside from what I've mentioned, it is loaded with fun and frolic, good and evil and the strange, enormous grey area in between, tragedy and triumph. Some of the lines and gags in this movie are priceless and the sort of thing you find yourself saying to friends at odd times just to crack things up (Do - Not - Seek - the Treasssure!) It bears multiple watchings well, as there are so many little details to pick up on, and its fun to find the direct Odyssey references within, some of them less obvious than others.

I'm not sure it's ever been so easy to give a movie five stars.
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Showing 1-10 of 10 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 12, 2007 9:33:25 PM PST
M. Mace says:
A perfect review for a perfect movie. You captured all the reasons why I have watched this movies 30 times (and counting). Your comments on Clooney's character have brought me a whole new insight to the movie.

Posted on Nov 14, 2007 10:32:14 AM PST
Thanks so much! And thanks for reading my review. Every time I watch this movie I'm amazed at the depth of it.

Posted on Sep 7, 2008 10:46:53 AM PDT
SavannahJ says:
Unbelievably amazing review of this spectacular movie!! Thank you. :)

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 8, 2008 1:27:23 AM PDT
Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment! Any fan of OBWAT is a friend of mine :-)

Posted on Feb 12, 2009 1:05:14 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 12, 2009 1:06:30 PM PST
JoeyD says:
Excellent review! I think this is one of Clooney's best performances ever! I absolutely love the scenes between he and his wife (Holly Hunter) and their cute little litter of girls! Clooney once again proves that he is much more than a pretty face. In fact, this is the film that really made me realize just how great of an actor this guy is and he seems to be only getting better. Bottom line, I watch movies to be entertained (for the most part) and this one had me glued to my seat from the opening scene on.

The scene with the three sirens is one of my all-time favorites. Tim Blake Nelson's facially expressions are absolutely priceless!

This should be one of the "Spotlight Reviews" in my humble opinion. Again, great job and thanks!

Posted on Jun 17, 2009 10:39:56 AM PDT
Jack Baker says:
One of my favorite films. Excellent review.

Posted on Jan 30, 2010 10:58:30 AM PST
Thank you both for your kind words!

Posted on Jul 9, 2010 1:15:10 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 9, 2010 1:18:24 PM PDT
E. Lambeth says:
"Some of the lines and gags in this movie are priceless and the sort of thing you find yourself saying to friends at odd times just to crack things up (Do - Not - Seek - the Treasssure!)"


Say, where's the mention of Pappy?

Posted on Dec 18, 2012 9:05:32 PM PST
J. Sterling says:
Mr. Toohey, what a magnificent review. Your comments about Everett are fantastic. You should be a professional movie reviewer.

Posted on Dec 9, 2013 10:39:33 AM PST
Jordeniche says:
OBWAT is such a brilliant and classic film on multiple levels, and it is worthy of your excellent review. Thank you for the insight and for letting me know I'm not the only one who quotes the film at random times with good friends (Do Not - Seek - the Treassure!)
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