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O Brother Where Art Thou

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Timothy O’Grady

English 101

April 12, 2008

Film Analysis

“O Brother Where Art Thou”

This old time musical theatrical movie clip was an insightful blast from the past that made you cherish those days where it was inconceivable to not be a gentlemen, and it was a down right shame to be anything less then an honest women. This old time movie with a new age attitude definitely strikes the funny bone of any modern day movie watcher.

“The opening titles inform us that the Coen Brothers' "O Brother, Where Art Thou" is based on Homer's The Odyssey. The Coens claimed their "Fargo" was based on a true story, but later confided it wasn't; this time they confess they haven't actually read The Odyssey. Still, they've absorbed the spirit. Like its inspiration, this movie is one darn thing after another.

The film is a Homeric journey through Mississippi during the Depression--or rather, through all of the images of that time and place that have been trickling down through pop culture ever since. There are even walk-ons for characters inspired by Babyface Nelson and the blues singer Robert Johnson, who speaks of a crossroads soul-selling rendezvous with the devil.

Bluegrass music is at the heart of the film, as it was of "Bonnie and Clyde," and there are images of chain gangs, sharecropper cottages, cotton fields, populist politicians, river baptisms, hobos on freight trains, patent medicines, 25-watt radio stations and Klan rallies. The movie's title is lifted from Preston Sturges' 1941 comedy "Sullivan's Travels" (it was the uplifting movie the hero wanted to make to redeem himself), and from Homer we get a Cyclops, sirens bathing on rocks, a hero named Ulysses, and his wife Penny, which is no doubt short for Penelope.

If these elements don't exactly add up, maybe they're not intended to. Homer's epic grew out of the tales of many storytellers who went before; their episodes were timed and intended for a night's recitation. Quite possibly no one before Homer saw the developing work as a whole. In the same spirit, "O Brother" contains sequences that are wonderful in themselves--lovely short films--but the movie never really shapes itself into a whole.”(Ebert, par 2)

This movie takes place in some unknown po -dunk country boy town in Mississippi, where only chain gangs and old Ford model “T” roamed the long dirt roads. The film begins with the three main characters: Ulysses Everett McGill (George Clooney), Pete Hogwallop (John Turturro), and Delmar O’Donnel (Tim Blake Nelson) escaping from their chain gang crew in the middle of nowhere. As these hardened idiotic criminals embark on their treasure seeking journey, they quickly find that their old foolish ways of lying, cheating, and stealing is no way to live if you’re trying to be a proper gentleman. With the hopes of striking it rich and starting a new life on the straight and narrow path, these three men run into some pretty interesting characters along the way.

One of the first characters we meet on these dysfunctional newly found brothers journey is the blind profit. He is particularly important because he informs these men, that the treasure they’re seeking will not be found and they will be getting something they never expected. But this is of little concern for our heroic idiots because, after all, this new fortune message came from a blind black man ridding a hand car, checking the train tracks. This is also where you first see the group somewhat unknowingly elect Ulysses as the leader, the reason he’s elected is possibly due to his outspokenness, and wordy explanations that only confuse the other two blubbering idiots. “The leader of the trio, Everett Ulysses McGill fancies himself as the brains of the outfit. Vanity may be the reason Everett sleeps with a hair net on to keep his pomaded locks in place, but you wouldn't be surprised to learn he thought it helped contain his bursting brain. In the vast scheme of things, though, Everett is only a few bricks closer to a full load than his cohorts, Pete who has a hair-trigger temper, and sweet, simpleminded Delmar.”(Taylor, par 2)

As our newly found chained companions embark further into their journey the long arm of the law tries catches up with them. Here is where you meet the leader of the inmate’s chain gang, his stoic like expressions and inferior position gives you the sense that he believes he is in a godlike position. Luckily for our heroes, they continuously escape his clutches safely and their battle for the treasure continues.

Our next character introduction takes place at the cross roads on a lonely dirt road, here is where you meet a colored boy by the name of Tommy, who sold his soul to the devil for the gift of guitar playing. The introduction of Tommy is really the first glimpse where you hear these backyard country boys sing; they have the voice of angles and they form a musical group called the Soggy Bottom Boys. This music group sings with a melody that gently touches your heart and speaks to your soul. Unbeknownst to our characters this newly formed group is really a treasure that will pay off big in the end.

One of the biggest turning points in the movie is when all the characters are in the woods and a multitude of Jesus believers join together for a good old fashion baptism. This scene is particularly important because here is where Pete and Delmar miraculously change their ways, for they have been saved by the grace of God. This scene makes most movie watchers get the feeling of a religious based movie. After this point if you pay close attention to the symbolism you



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