Any film by the Coens is bound to be quirky; they have built a formidable reputation on producing eccentric and eclectic productions. The stories produced by the brothers are never quite what they seem, yet the Coens have managed once again with 'O Brother' to out-quirk even themselves. This isn't so much a movie of 'Yuck!' or 'Ouch!' like the style of their previous outings. This flick is a return to something of the heydays of filmed musicals, as three convicts, freshly escaped from a chain gang, hoof it across Mississippi to find a sizeable stash of cash to fund their (relatively) innocent dreams.
One does wonder how the lovable and slow-witted Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson) made it to the chain gang, except out of sheer bad luck, when he tells of his simple dream to buy back the family farm from the bank with his share of the gold. Pete (John Turturro) has ambitions to be a maitre d' (although with his temper, calling his restaurant 'The Vinnie Jones' might not be a bad idea), and their flamboyant, fast-talking 'leader', Ulysses Everett McGill- a rubber-faced, slick-backed George Clooney (proving that under the right direction he could do much more than simply smoulder as hunk-of-the-movie) wants to improve his financial situation to win back his wife and their brood of daughters. The movie is based on a novel by Howard Waldrop, which was a rough retelling of Ulysses' epic journey set in the 1920s in the Deep South. The Coens reset their small epic in depression-era Mississippi instead, complete with great attention to details; the clothing (grubby to filthy), product packaging (the ever-present Dapper Dan hair Pomade - look out for Clooney in a hair net; priceless), vivid character sketches (hot on their trail is the sinister devil-like figure of posse-leader Cooley), and a great musical score. If the boys aren't actually stretching their tonsils on screen at any one time, there are background characters singing for them (there's a fabulous Negro trio at the boys' execution), or the soundtrack itself pulses over the action with the heat of Southern rhythm and melodies. Sorry, ladies, that isn't Clooney singing, although there does somewhere exist a copy of his 'original' vocal contribution...
The film has laughs a-plenty, beautiful semi-nude sirens, and a sweeping visual spectrum. The score is mesmerising, and the film presents itself as a thoroughly enjoyable evening's entertainment. A classic in the making.
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