For Reel

O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
February 7, 2016, 4:16 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , ,

Director(s): Joel & Ethan Coen
3.5 Stars
O Brother, Where Art Thou?The Coen brothers’ folkloric shaggy dog tale about three convicts (George Clooney, Tim Blake Nelson, and John Turturro) on the run has not retained the same critical enthusiasm as their best works, but it nonetheless persists as an unshakable entertainment, a reprisal of Depression-era kitsch for a new generation. It showcases the filmmakers in their most broadly archetypal mode, involving supporting players like boisterous politicians (Charles Durning and Wayne Duvall), threatening sheriffs (Daniel von Bargen), and even resurrections of legendary figures like Baby Face Nelson (Michael Badalucco) and Robert Johnson (Christ Tomas King). While these supposedly frivolous efforts are often pitted unfavorably against the Coens’ more ambitious fair, O Brother, Where Art Thou? deals with some of their more persistent themes, including Clooney’s scientific reason challenged by the seemingly mystical forces that set him on an increasingly unlikely path. For all of its lightly-amusing capriciousness, the film doesn’t miss the chance to have Clooney pause on the image of a cow on a barn roof, allowing a moment for the character to consider the mysteries of the unknowable. This climactic scene is met by at least half a dozen more memorable episodes–Roger Ebert brilliantly described the Klan rally sequence as Busby Berkeley meets Triumph of the Will–and, if the whole does not quite equal the sum of these parts, O Brother, Where Art Thou? succeeds as a pop-nostalgia portmanteau.

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