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O Brother, Where Art
"Did I miss the Fund Drive?"
You know what makes friends a pain in the ass? It's not that
they're full of "great ideas" about intervention and
trying to get you into "programs" to control your anger
or drinking (God, how I love Mrs. Filthy's ability to deny).
It's not that they think that just because you threw up on their
leather sofas, or broke all their pool cues when they refused
to agree with you that Bob Hope is dead, that they need to "save
you from yourself." (I know Bob Hope isn't really dead,
but it's more fun pretending he is.) Stunts like that don't make
friends suck, it just makes me want to avoid them.
What makes friends suck is when your wife leaves with her
mother and you get lonely and sad because she didn't leave any
of those frozen taquitos with the fake beef inside, and you're
a little scared by how it sounds like the wall is whispering
your name when the heater comes on, so you call Mark to see if
he will go to the movies with you, and he says maybe but he brings
up the time you made him see Deuce Bigalow. He's still
pissed about it, especially because you borrowed some money and
promised to pay him back but never did and didn't return his
calls until now because you hoped he had forgotten about that
Your friend Mark says maybe he will go as long as you pay
him back and he gets to pick the movie. So, your friend Mark
chooses the Coen Brothers' O Brother, Where Art Thou,
and it's a steaming pile of horseshit. It's proof that even smart
people can have retarded babies.
There's an old comedy by Preston Sturges called Sullivan's
Travels about a popular Depression-era Hollywood director
who wants to stop making comedies and remake Homer's Odyssey
as a pretentious movie about human suffering called O Brother,
Where Art Thou. In his quest to make it, he learns that what
Americans need is comedy, not preachy morals. So, what did the
Coens learn from Sullivan's Travels? Not to make a funny
comedy, but to retell the Odyssey as O Brother, Where Art
Thou. What a fucking stupid idea. What assholes think we
want the movie Sturges' was making fun of? The Coens are shooting
for comedy and miss worse than an eight-year-old trying to piss
into a coffee can from ten feet.
What's the fucking joke? That the Coen Brothers saw Sturges'
movie? Only the Mensa-loving fuckers who walk around with "Music
is My Bag" tote bags full of books from Daedalus will think
the reference by itself is funny. For me, it'd have been a hell
of a lot funnier to see that video going around of Julie Andrews
getting her hands chopped off in Morocco for shoplifting pantyhose.
In O Brother, Where Art Thou, George Clooney, John
Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson escape a southern chain gang. Clooney,
whose character is named Ulysses just so that even the stupidest
among us will get the idea, is the brains of the operation and
tells Turturro and Nelson that he knows where there is hidden
treasure, but they have to get to it in four days, before the
Tennessee Valley Authority floods its location. They encounter
various modern versions of the Odyssey's villains, like the Cyclops
as eye-patched fatso John Goodman, and the sirens as hot wash
women who liquor up the boys and then let them park their ponies
in their barns (we see no screwing or nudity). They record a
hillbilly song under a phony a name and unknown to them, it becomes
a hit. A vaguely sinister lawman trails the boys, and they become
unknowing pawns in a gubernatorial campaign between a crotchety
good guy and a "reformer" who belongs to the Ku Klux
Ultimately, Clooney reveals that there is no treasure, he
just told the other two that to get them to escape with him.
What he's really after is reaching his estranged wife and stopping
her from marrying some buck-toothed dipshit.
Remember when the Coens made great movies, like Barton
Fink and Miller's Crossing? Hell, Raising Arizona
is pretty fucking funny, but this movie is a depressing testament
to what happens to people when they start believing people who
tell them they're great. That is, they get lazy and easily impressed
by themselves. It's exactly why I appreciate the hundreds of
you who write me each week to tell me I'm a fucking asshole and
to stop picking through their trash.
O Brother tries to tell jokes, but they're either lame
and repeated over and over, or have the subtlety of the harelip
at the Arvada Tavern looking for a few bucks by sticking her
hand through the fly of your jeans.
The characters never rise above cheap "Green Acres"
stereotypes, flat, broad and about as original as a collection
of "Truly Tasteless Jokes" (Volume Four notwithstanding).
Turturro and Nelson are dumb crackers, overacting and staring
googly-eyed at their latest predicament like cartoon cats. This
is easily the worst Turturro performance I have ever seen. What
asses have the Coens had their heads up to think that dumb hicks
are hilarious? Didn't they learn anything from "Hee-Haw"?
Clooney is equally bad as a big-vocabulary pompous ass with nothing
to do but reel off obviously-scripted monologues where the main
joke is that he's using big words. Ha ha ha, a thesaurus sure
is a funny book.
The secondary characters aren't any better. A kid sells his
soul to the devil to play the guitar well. That is supposed to
be clever, but it's not without a point or a joke or some reason
for existing. The sinister lawman does absolutely nothing but
appear a couple of times and wear "sinister" sunglasses.
Goodman can't salvage his burly Cyclops character, mostly because
his scene, like every other, has no payoff. Same for the sirens
or a subplot about a manic-depressive bank robber. They'd be
clever setups for jokes, if only there were punchlines, but the
Coens are too amused at how fucking clever it was of them to
shoehorn their story into the Odyssey format.
Without jokes or characters, you'd hope for a plot. Sorry,
O Brother is looser than sloppy seconds with a three-dollar
whore. The unlikable characters meander around the story like
blind men in a meat freezer, feeling for an exit and occasionally
bumping into a slab of story. How can we root for Clooney if
we don't even know or care what he wants?
The best thing about the movie is the way it looks. But it
would be better as a picture book than a shitty movie that I
had to pay full price for. The saving grace for me is that I
still haven't paid Mark back, and I'm not going to. I don't need
I hope Mrs. Filthy gets back soon because since she left has
been the longest six hours of my life. Two Fingers.
to tell Filthy something?