O Brother, Where Art Thou? Movie Review

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O Brother, Where Art Thou? Movie Review

O Brother, Where Art Thou? Movie Review

A Lot or a Little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this comedy with its outlandish characters, infectious musical score, and slapstick action sequences has multiple levels of appeal. As for issues of concern for teens — there are lots of swear words ("son-of-a-bitch," "hell's bells," "whore, and "Goddamnit"), many racial slurs ("nigras," "crackers," "darkies"), and a mind-bending Ku Klux Klan musical sequence. Characters (and a few animals) are frequently in jeopardy: trapped in a burning barn, beaten with a tree branch, threatened with hanging, shot at, chased, and more. The racial satire may provoke questions about the United States' history of racism that parents should be prepared to discuss.

Community Reviews

  • Parents say (9)

  • Kids say (27)

February 16, 2019

A fantastic movie!

This is a great movie with fantastic music and lines abound. My family and I have watched it so many times we have it almost memorized. However, there are a few things of note:
1. The KKK is prominent in the movie
2. The sheriff is depicted as Satan
3. some language
4. some violence, especially with the cyclops
5. some alcohol
6. the sirens seduce Everett and his friends
7. some scary parts
8. George Nelson is based on the infamous gangster Babyface Nelson
9. Due to its depiction during the Depression, racist terms are used (not strong ones, however)

January 20, 2019

An Odyssey into Strangeness

O Brother, Where Art Thou feels like it captures the essence of what is means to be a Coen brothers classic. It is bizarre, and at times a bit coarse. The story feels haphazard and nonsensical (and it always will remain so to a degree), yet it come together into something rather more homogenous at last – not a negative aspect, certainly, just a different style. My attempt to keep an index of curse words fell apart after a while, as the effort from recording them probably would have eventually doubled the time it took me to see the movie, had I persevered in it. However, a rough total may help you judge the movie's suitability for your situation. I found approximately 5 strong religious profanities, a few uses of "a**", 10 "h***" words, 11 "SOB" or variations, and 32 "da**" or "G**_da**" words. The n word is also used once. To summarise, although the language may be mild in form, it is very common throughout the film, and should be a major consideration as to its' suitability. Sexuality is kept to a minimum, with a siren-related scene and some sex-appeal references being the farthest the movies goes in this regard. The sirens, bathing in the river, are dressed in loose garments, and begin to seduce the protagonists, but we don't see what eventuates, as we fade out. All in the context of its neo screwball/slapstick comedy nature, O Brother, Where Art Thou also addresses the Ku Klux Klan and Christianity. One character claims to have made a deal with the devil. Altogether, this is one of the stranger of the Coen brothers' films, and although not entirely intended to be taken seriously, its high language count, sometimes explicit violence (cows are pelted with bullets and hit by a car, a flaming cross falls and kills a man, there are some fistfights and similar battles) and varied subject matter make this imperatively acceptable only for a more mature audience.

This title has:

Too much violence

Too much swearing

What's the Story?

This Coen brothers' venture is based in part on the Odyssey. But this Ulysses is no war hero from ancient Greece. It is America during the Depression, and Ulysses Everett McGill (George Clooney) is a prisoner on a Mississippi chain gang. He persuades the two men chained to him, Pete (John Turturro) and Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson) to escape so they can get a hidden treasure. They make their way home, meeting up with an assortment of oddball characters, including bank-robbing legend George "Babyface" Nelson. They get some money by singing for a man who records bluegrass. They cross paths with two bitter rivals for the governor's office — incumbent Governor Menelaus "Pass the Biscuits" Pappy O'Daniel (Charles Durning) and his cronies all have huge bellies, with pants that reach to their chests to be held by suspenders. Opponent Homer Stokes sells himself as a man of the little people who wants to clean house, and he makes campaign appearances with a midget and a broom to show that he means it. McGill and his friends do their best to evade the sheriff and make their way home, amidst washed-out landscapes.

Is It Any Good?

This is a lighter story than many of the Coens' previous movies, which makes it easy to forgive the parts that don't work very well. And it gives us the pleasure of hearing the year's finest soundtrack, sheer bluegrass joy.

Like the Odyssey, the Ulysses of O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU is trying to get home to his wife before she marries one of her suitors. There are other echoes to that classic saga, from a blind seer who predicts that they will not find the treasure they seek to a one-eyed villain and three singing sirens to distract the travelers from their journey. As always, the Coen brothers present an array of quirky characters with faces closer to gargoyles and caricatures than to Hollywood prettiness. And there is the offbeat dialogue — when Delmar, just baptized, says he has been saved by Jesus and a black guitar player says he just sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads, McGill replies, "Well, I guess I'm the only one who remains unaffiliated."

Talk to Your Kids About …

  • Families can talk about the story of the Odyssey. How does this movie transform the original story?

  • Talk about the symbolism of fire and water throughout the movie. What do you think it means?

  • What is the United States' history of racism and how have things changed (or not) over time?

Movie Details