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O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000, George Clooney, John Turturro)

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When Ulysses Everett McGill (George Clooney), serving time on a chain gang, receives word his wife has pronounced him dead and is planning to re-marry, he plans to escape and win her back. Unfortunately, he’s shackled to the spectacularly stupid Delmar O’Donnell (Tim Blake Nelson) and Pete Hogwallop (John Turturro). Once he’s convinced them he knows where over a million dollars are hidden, the three escape and so begins a journey through ’30s America involving beautiful Sirens, who turn one of them into a toad; a one-eyed bible salesman (John Goodman); black blues singer Tommy Johnson (Chris Thomas King), who sold his soul to the Devil at the crossroads; a money-raising recording gig that turns them into superstars; and a savage political campaign.

The film is loosely based on Homer’s Odyssey (hence Ulysses and his wife Penelope, not to mention Goodman as Cyclops, the Sirens and a blind seer, Teiresias in the epic), and also owes a debt to Preston Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels (the Coens pay due homage – their title comes from the film), but is totally stamped with the the brothers’ imprint, deliriously comic yet logically constructed. The three leads all play their roles superbly, with Clooney looking on occasion like Clark Gable in It Happened One Night and Nelson and Turturro his excellent foils. The directors hold the episodic nature of the film together to bring all the threads, rather like Ulysses, safely home in the end.

production details
USA | 106 minutes | 2000

Directors and Writers: Joel and Ethan Coen

cast
George Clooney as Ulysses Everett McGill
John Turturro as Pete Hogwallop
Tim Blake Nelson as Delmar O’Donnell
John Goodman as Daniel “Big Dan” Teague
Holly Hunter as Penny Wharvey-McGill
Chris Thomas King as Tommy Johnson
Charles Durning as Menelaus “Pappy” O’Daniel
Del Pentecost as Junior O’Daniel
Michael Badalucco as George Nelson
J.R. Horne as Pappy’s Staff
Brian Reddy as Pappy’s Staff
Wayne Duvall as Homer Stokes
Ed Gale as The Little Man
Ray McKinnon as Vernon T. Waldrip
Daniel von Bargen as Sheriff Cooley
Mia Tate as Siren
Musetta Vander as Siren
Christy Taylor as Siren
Millford Fortenberry as Pomade Vendor
Frank Collison as Washington B. “Wash” Hogwallop
Quinn Gasaway as Boy Hogwallop
Lee Weaver as Blind Seer
Stephen Root as Mr. Lund