Film Commentary [1-25-01]
Cracker Road Trip - - O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Genre: Comedy
Grade = A-



Dapper DanThe Coen brothers, best known for their idiosyncratic yet high quality films such as Fargo, Miller’s Crossing, Raising Arizona and The Big Lebrowski have adapted Homer’s The Odyssey to Depression period Mississippi. Their latest film follows the exploits of three chain gang escapees Ulysses Everett McGill (George Clooney), Pete (John Turturro) and Delmar (director Tim Blake Nelson). The three have escaped specifically to recover a hidden treasure from a bank robbery. They begin a series of adventures ranging from being hunted by a sunglass-eyed prison warden, singing chain gangs, mass river baptisms, blues men selling their souls at crossroads, recording a hit record and a Ku Klux Klan rally dance and musical extravaganza .

The title of this film is based on legendary Hollywood comedy director Preston Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels about a comedy film director who goes on a undercover road trip to research a film from which this movie takes its name. From the outset this film develops an atmosphere that transports you to a bygone era and is given a sense of authenticity through its unique hillbilly bluegrass soundtrack combined with outrageous Mississippi accents and the down-home colloquialism of its characters. Clooney plays a glib-talking slickster and self-appointed leader of the threesome while Turturro and Nelson have their rube characters down pat. To say that the film is based on the Odyssey is a bit of a misnomer. While the characters do meet a blind soothsayer, sirens, a one-eyed two-timing miscreant hilariously portrayed by Coen brothers film veteran John Goodman and a suitor for Clooney’s exwife Penny (Holly Hunter), any other resemblance to the original epic is merely coincidental.

The performances of the film are outstanding, especially Clooney, who for the first time portrays a character with its own accent and persona rather than the alter-ego of Clooney. He for once shows some versatility as an actor, something Kevin Costner has yet to accomplish. An honorable mention goes to Charles Durning for his portrayal of a crooked Huey Long-type governor in a reelection campaign. The film’s entourage of actors bring humorous and quirky performances that make the film exciting to watch and stimulating to the ear.

The cinematography adds to the feeling of authenticity with its bleached-out shades of brown giving the film an old time film feel that fills the screen with the heat and weariness of the depression-era South. The best thing about this film is its soundtrack. From its opening hobo song Big Rock Candy Mountain which laments a fantasy world were ‘all the railroad bulls are blind and the jails are made of tin so you can walk out agin’ to backwoods and erotic song of the Sirens. This is one soundtrack that you would want to purchase.

The reviews for this film have been mixed. Either the critics and patrons love the film like me or utterly despise it. In my opinion, with numerous plot twists and surprises and with only a few plot holes, this film is a welcome addition to the Coen brothers line of intelligent and artistic films.


Backwoods sirens


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