Today, folks, I’m going to introduce you to a movie that’s very close to my heart personally. It’s one of my top five all-time favorites, and even after a dozen viewings it still stands up against the competition. What, you may ask, is this movie that gives me so much joy? It’s called O Brother Where Art Thou, and now more than ever, it’s the kind of movie we need. If you’re at all familiar with this one going in, you may already be taken somewhat aback to discover that I think so very highly of a musical, but it’s true. I loved this movie.
Explaining the plot can be as easy as you want it to be—for instance, if I told you that the plot is Homer’s Iliad set in the Great Depression of the United States, well, that’d be a perfectly valid description. But if you’re not familiar with classical Greek literature, I could just amplify it a bit and tell you it’s about George Clooney, here playing an erudite, pedantic desperado by the mouthful name of Ulysses Everett McGill, who’s just broken out of a chain gang somewhere in the South. Piecing together some of the place names mentioned like Tishomingo, Itta Bena, and Yazoo suggests that they’re in Mississippi. Anyway, Everett, as he’s called, has convinced his cohorts to break out along with him in search of buried treasure. The three set out along a long and tortuous journey that brings them in contact with a Cyclops, sirens, and an insane pirate, among other surprising parallels to the original Greek.
As a comedy, it’s a rollicking romp with plenty of downright authentic musical cues including such peppy early twentieth century titles as “The Big Rock Candy Mountain”, “Keep On The Sunny Side of Life” and one of my personal favorite karaoke jams “Man of Constant Sorrow”. The level of detail involved with the translation from the original Greek to a screenplay about the Depression is apt and surprisingly detail rich.
Even better, there will even prove to be some thrilling action sequences here as well, with narrow escapes and manic escapades being the order of the day. Switches between the two seem almost seamless, and the humor balances well with the brief action sequences.
The performances are wonderfully solid and ultimately believable—watch for John Goodman to do an amazing job as a malevolent one-eyed Bible salesman. Of course, everyone else turns in a fine job as well, whether they’re singing, dancing or running for their lives from an onrushing wall of water.
And just in case you were inclined to doubt, it even has a happy ending. AND a trick happy ending, if that weren’t good enough on top of it.
Perhaps one of the truest signs of how good a movie is—or isn’t—is how long it lasts. If the jokes are only funny once, if the shocks are only scary once, and if the drama is only tear-jerking once, it’s nowhere near as good as a movie that’ll make you laugh, cry or jump with sustained viewings. O Brother Where Art Thou has made me laugh despite dozens of viewings since its release, and thus easily qualifies in the rank of good movie.