Hollywood would definitely be a duller place without the Coen Brothers. In a film-making universe that barely ever produces something original, you can always trust the Minnesotan siblings behind "Fargo" and "The Big Lebowski" to pull off something totally unexpected. And with "O Brother, Where Art Thou?", they’ve done it again.
Taking its classical-sounding title from an in-joke in Preston Sturges' screwball comedy "Sullivan's Travels", "O, Brother" is resolutely uncategorisable. A combination of musical, comedy and fantasy, it is set in Depression-era Deep South and follows hair-obsessed smart-alec Ulysses (Clooney), Pete (Turturro) and dopey Delmar (Blake Nelson) - a trio of convicts who escape from a chain gang to find some hidden treasure.
But as usual with the Coens’ movies, things are never what they seem. For the film is also loosely based on Homer’s 'Odyssey' and as such the boys bump into all manner of folk on their quest, from a one-eyed bible salesman (John Goodman) to a campaigning mayoral candidate (Charles Durning).
But what really gives "O Brother" a spin is the constant hum of bluegrass music. Not simply content with using it as soundtrack, the Coens often decide to bring it closer to the surface, which results in the friends inadvertently becoming a hit pop group called The Soggy Bottom Boys.
All in all, a thoroughly eclectic and always entertaining mix. Once again, the brothers' sharp eye for casting is confirmed with the three leads giving superb performances that bounce off the screen. Tim Blake Nelson in particular - in fact a director who was only offered the part because he’s mates with the Coens - makes the film as the endlessly thick Delmar.
Read a review of the DVD.