Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
Starring: George Clooney, John Tuturro, Tim Blake Nelson, Chris Thomas King, Charles Durning, John Goodman, Holly Hunter, Wayne Duvall, Michael Badalucco, Ray McKinnon and Daniel von Bargen
Director: Joel Coen
Rating: Nine of Ten Stars
Three convicts (Clooney, Tuturro and Nelson) escape from a chaingang and embark on a quest across Great Depression-era Missisippi in search of buried loot from an armored car heist and a reunion with family.
"O Brother, Where Art Thou?" is perhaps the cutest comedy from the chaemeleon-like Coen Brothers who have not yet made a movie I've seen that has resembled any of the other movies i've seen from them. This one has the feel of a 1940s musical and/or road picture, complete with a spirit-lifting ending that will leave you feeling cheerful no matter how glum you might have been when you sat down to see the movie. Even better, they've used the plot Homer's "The Odyssey" as the framework for this story, and the way they have it manifesting itself in 20th century America is surprising, smart, and very funny.
There is much to love about this movie, but commenting on it would ruin the surprise. This is a movie it's best to come to cold, without anyone having rambled on about about the funny twists and turns of the plot. I will say this: The way they work in fate, prophesies of doom and glory, Circe, the Sirens, the Cyclops, the Ulysses' wife and her criminal, two-faced suitors are not at all going to be what you might expect.
The film is also worth seeing for a very funny performance by George Clooney as the dapper, smooth-tongued leader of the band of adventurers on the quest. I've come to the conclusion after watching this film that no living actor does the "Did I just see what I think I saw?" face like he does... I now understand the comparison between him and Cary Grant, something I've dismissed up to now.
If you're in the mood for a clever comedy that's going to leave you feeling happy and upbeat about life, I can't recommend "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" strongly enough.
For another comedy that makes great use of the under-pinnings of ancient literature, check out "Nacho Libre". Reviews at the time showed a serious flaw in the American education system, as critics focused on the film as a "sports comedy," but completely missed the fact that it's also a step-by-step retelling of "The Epic of Gilgamesh". Or maybe it just showed that even some Jack Black comedies are too intellectual for most movie critics.