Where's the beef? In the middle of the road, back 'bout half a mile
Joel and Ethan Coen's "O Brother" is a tough movie to review. I've seen it several times over the last couple years, and it is a very beautiful and enjoyable film to watch. Roger Deakins, cinematographer, in particular did a tremendous job with the visuals. The music from T-Bone Burnett is a rarity these days, enfusing the film with atmosphere and energy. But I hear a lot of people complaining about the film, and I'm not able to dismiss such complaints that easily.
In 1937, three members of a Mississippi chain gang escape and have four days to recover treasure from a cabin situated in a valley that is about to be flooded. Along the way, a lot of things happen. The movie has a lot of influences, the one referenced the most being Homer's Odyssey, whose storyline matches up in an approximate sense to this one.
George Clooney, John Turturro, and Tim Blake Nelson play our escapees, each one a well played individual caricature that fits perfectly into the setting. They inhabit these characters so well, it's hard to imagine anyone else in those roles.
So what is the problem? It's simply that we have five pounds of frosting, but hardly any cake. This film, which amounts to a stylized road movie, doesn't reward us much for getting to the end. It's not much more deeper than the surface personalities of its characters, which is strange, because the Coen brothers are certainly capable of that kind of depth. It's not their best work, but perhaps the prettiest. The beauty and cleverness of each individual moment does much to forgive the lack of depth. It's still a worthwhile flick, well worth seeing, despite its shortcomings.
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