OH BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? (2000)

TMG Scale  9.0    P Factor 0.0     MPAA Rating: PG-13
Starring George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson. John Goodman, Holly Hunter, Charles Durning

This is the Coen Brothers at their best. The Big Lebowski fans will love this film. It is the same type of zaney mixed up journey by several men into one odyssey. The fact is this movie is sort of a 1930’s era remix of Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey.

Three very wacky guys escape from a Mississippi prison chain gang in the 1930’s. Everett (Clooney) persuades fellow inmates Pete (Turturro) and Delmar (Nelson) to escape with him and then share $1.2 million he stashed away from a robbery. Everett’s motivation is to get his wife Penny (Hunter) and seven daughters back before she “runnoft” (you have to see the film to appreciate the pronunciation) and marries a new man. 

This film is worth it just to watch Clooney. His facial expressions and dialogue steal the show. Their journey takes them through stints as bluegrass singing group called the Soggy Bottom Boys, an encounter with gangster George (Baby Face) Nelson, a Ku Klux Klan hanging, a political rally and countless other misadventures before they are almost brought to justice—only to be saved by a near Biblical flood.  The bluegrass music and the singing is wonderful. Somehow it all fits together. It is a traveling road show of one Coen Brother conjured up experience after the other. Their initial encounter with patch-eyed Bible salesmen John Goodman on the road and later at the Klan rally is priceless. (If you have a white Klan hood and only one good eye, guess you only need one eye hole cut. It is humor only greats like the Coens lay down) It does seem like a jigsaw puzzle for awhile, but somehow it all blends into one cinematic canvas as it develops.

You have to keep your mind wide open and sharp. There is so much going on in this film and terrific dialogue can easily slide right past you. I especially loved the political ally concert with the Soggy Mountain Boys. It is high quality period bluegrass music. The guys are wearing ZZ TOP style fake beards so as not to be recognized. It is both hilarious, but also seems to just be the right look. Politicians today can take some cues from the melt down of gubenatorial candidiate Homer Stokes. You need to know your audience.

Messages? Probably, but they are not in your face. I guess this is a movie about loyalty to pals and perseverance. No matter how bad things may look, no matter how tight a spot you may be in, their are always options. My brother in law once told me “Art, your friends will get you in more trouble than your enemies ever will.” How true.  I think that message comes through. But it takes real friends to stay with you, come hell or high water. We also learn that a good hair gel (Dapper Dan) can keep you going…and dapper!

This is a film for non linear people who are free form thinkers and have a twisted sense of humor. It is not for children, accountants or the local quilting club. This is a film you must watch again and again to even begin “to get it all.” It is my kind of movie!

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