Posted by: ckckred | January 18, 2013

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

The Coen brothers' clever, hilarious, deadpan comedy

The Coen brothers’ clever, hilarious, deadpan comedy

In my opinion, the Coen brothers are two of the greatest directors of all time.  Their love of language and stylistic direction has made me a lifelong fan of their work.  O Brother, Where Art Thou? is another gem from the two brothers and is a clever and hilarious update of The Odyssey.

O Brother takes place during the great depression.  The film opens with three convicts, Ulysses Everett McGill (George Clooney), Pete (John Turturro), and Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson), escaping from prison.  All three of them have been chained up together, forcing Ulysses to travel with Pete and Delmar.  He enlists them by telling them of a hidden treasure, and soon the trio travel across Mississippi.

O Brother’s story parallels The Odyssey’s not just through the similar storyline but also numerous references.  In one scene, the trio encounter sirens and a one eyed Bible salesman played by John Goodman.  There are also many other numerous jokes, including a song sung by the three that soon becomes a major hit, a psychotic bank robber who wears a string of dynamite, and a Ku Klux Klan meeting.

Like The Odyssey, O Brother is really about the adventures of the men.  The Coen brothers make use of their clever, offbeat comedy and two of their regular actors (Turturro and Goodman) appear.  Similar to Fargo and Raising Arizona, O Brother is playful with its language, consisting of mostly southern dialect.  The film really pays homage to the book instead of parodying it so fans of The Odyssey will still enjoy the film.

And as always with the Coen brothers, the acting is top notch.  George Clooney pretty much plays a parody of himself as Ulysses (his character acts like a salesman and uses “Dapper Dan” hair pomade) and fits really well here.  Turturro is also very funny but who really steals the show is Blake Nelson as Delmar.  Nelson is fantastic as Delmar, the most clueless of the three, and has many of the film’s funniest lines and jokes (in one scene Delmar thinks Pete has turned into a toad and brings him along their journey).

The Coen brothers also pay much attentiveness to the era.  Like Bonnie and Clyde, O Brother’s soundtrack is primarily of bluegrass music, which is rather appropriate.  The detail has also gone into their production.  The opening titles of the film pay homage to the old silent films, the color palette gives the film a dusty feel, and the sets and costumes are all very elaborate and well done.  Few directors have quite mastered their craft as well as the Coens have.

Overall, O Brother is another great movie by the Coen brothers.  A few people may not enjoy the film’s quirk, but the movie is ultimately very effective.



  1. I remember having a lot of fun with this one. While it’s not the greatest Coen film, it is one that made me laugh the most. The characters were great. Nice review.

    • Thanks! I’d say my favorite Coen brothers movie would be either Fargo or No Country For Old Men, but this one is still very funny.

      • Wow those are my two of three Coen favorites…I love The Big Lebowski too…but I couldn’t compare them. I gotta stop commenting, but your last few topics have been dead on with my taste in movies. I really like Barton Fink, Miller’s Crossing, Blood Simple, The Man Who Wasn’t There…I watched A Serious Man missing the very beginning and had no idea it was a Coen Brothers movie until the end–that was weird.

      • Miller’s Crossing is great, probably the Coens’ most underrated film. I do love their movies.

  2. Mighty good review of a mighty good movie. Miiiighty good.

    • Glad you love it as well. The Coen brothers are two of my favorite directors and this is one of their funniest films.

  3. I’ve always wanted to watch this one. Thanks for the good review.

    • I highly recommend it, especially if you’re a Coen brothers fan. Thanks for commenting.

  4. Finally saw this for the first time last year and loved it. Now it’s one of my favorites from the Coens.

    • It’s one of my favorites by them as well. The two have them are great directors and I’m always eager to see their next film. Thanks for commenting.

  5. I dont know that I’d call the Coens the greatest ever, but they certainly belong in the conversation, dont they? I love how they can change gears and mix and vary their filmography so expertly. 😀

    O Brother is one of their best. It parallels The Odyssey as you point out, which is fun for literature fans, but its also just plain funny and fun and spirited!

    Nice one CK

    • O Brother is one of my favorites, but I would probably say Fargo or No Country For Old Men is their best. This one always makes me laugh and I love how the Coens can pretty much make any film zany and high spirited. Thanks for commenting.

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