It seems fitting that Netflix finally picked up the Coen brother’s classic O Brother, Where Art Thou? It’s the perfect opportunity to bring a new generation of fans to this Oscar-nominated movie.
The 2000 release is an homage to The Odyssey and to one of the Coen brothers’ biggest influences, Preston Sturges. Sturges himself intended to make a movie tale of the “common man” and his struggles in the journey of life, but was unable to finance it. The title of O Brother, Where Art Thou? is a line pulled from the original script Sturges created. His influence can always be found in Coen films, in varying strengths, but O Brother, Where Art Thou? is the one true homage to the man and his work.
The story follows self-proclaimed genius Everett and his tag-along cohorts Pete and Delmar as they escape a chain gang and head off to find treasure Everett claims to have buried. Along the way, the trio ends up picking up a man who claimed to have sold his soul to the devil, records a single that becomes a major hit (unbeknownst to them), and make enemies with the Ku Klux Klan, along with a host of other misadventures. With a cast that boasts George Clooney, John Goodman, and John Turturro, O Brother, Where Art Thou? is able to support the strong and yet oddly kitschy script.
One of the interesting challenges the production team faced was the Coens’ desire for a sepia-coloured film. Filmed in the Mississippi summer, which can rival the greenery Nanaimo faces in that season, this gave them the opportunity to make the whole movie colour-edited. This was the first time a feat like that was made in a full-length movie, and paved the way for the colour editing we see in most large-scale films today.
The odd fault of O Brother, Where Art Thou? is the snippet pace of the plot. The protagonists find themselves in different situations, problems, adventures, and yet none of them truly link together. For some viewers, this works perfectly, but others become frustrated with the staggered storytelling.
Boasting a Grammy-winning soundtrack, produced by the legendary T Bone Burnett, credited with breathing life back into the Folk and Bluegrass genres, O Brother, Where Art Thou? offers a wide mood of music, from the macabre “O, Death,” to the cheerful “Keep on the Sunny Side,” to the lonesome “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues,” and to the foot stomping “Man of Constant Sorrow.” If anything, the movie is worth watching simply for the unique soundtrack.
Whether you’re in it for the soundtrack, the homage to a great and forgotten film legend, or the amusing adventures of three men that find themselves in the strangest of predicaments, O Brother, Where Art Thou? is a movie that you should give a shot.