Sepia Toned Sappiness

My favorite movie is “O Brother, Where Art Thou”. I have no deep, philosophical reason for liking this film. Mostly, this movie appeals to my senses in a way that other movies don’t. The sepia toned filter, the sappy bluegrass music, and the not-so-perfect love story make me feel like I am in a place that I have always known. The strong sense of sentimentality the film achieves for me presents a background upon which characters who do not take themselves too seriously fight against what they perceive to be injustice. The three main characters of the film are not superheroes of the depression-era South by any means; they are selfish, ignorant, low-class criminals who will do anything to preserve themselves. At the same time, they have a gentle, kind, and generous human side that makes me feel empathy like I am reading Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. I don’t care what these guys did to land themselves in prison– I’m rooting for them either way.


I’m sure my upbringing in a musically talented Southern family is one of the major reasons this film hits me the way it does. I’m fairly simple in my film and TV tastes– while I enjoy a good message, I’m not trying to hunt too hard when I’m partaking in entertainment. “O Brother, Where Art Thou” manages to make me feel like I’m intelligent by relying on witty wordplay and literary references to reach it’s “educated” audience, while also sensually overloading the viewer with music and cinematography that create an environment that feels like a stifling hot summer day. There is a sense of stillness in this movie that the history major in me eats up. The feeling that there is nothing special about this particular day or moment, that everything around is is suspended while we experience it, is one of the reasons I love to study history. I love anything that can allow me to imagine that once, people lived on this earth, and it was no more special to them than the world is now to use. A quote in Natalie Babbit’s Tuck Everlasting evokes, to me, the emotion that this movie does: Time is like a wheel. Turning and turning – never stopping. And the woods are the center; the hub of the wheel. It began the first week of summer, a strange and breathless time when accident, or fate, bring lives together. When people are led to do things, they’ve never done before. On this summer’s day, not so very long ago, the wheel set lives in motion in mysterious ways.” 


The humor, drama, and music are all reasons I love “O Brother Where Art Thou,” but I mostly love that the movie is enjoyable both in pieces and as a whole. There are certain movies and books that make me feel as though I’ve taken a long, scenic hike and while I may have been tired at points during the hike, I’m glad I did it. This movie is more like a series of adventures that, individually, are fun and interesting in their own right. Each scene has some new reference or moment of normalcy that begs the viewer’s attention, making the movie one of the most re-watchable ones I’ve come across. At the same time, the movie is incredible as a total piece; when I finish it, I feel as though I’ve been filled up with a feeling I didn’t have before.

I’ll be honest– I’m not a huge movie person. I tend to have a pretty short attention span when it comes to movies, and I generally would rather be reading an article or watching a TV show. This is one of those movies that I can’t just have on in the background. While I know it might not be the “best” or the most sophisticated choice, it’s my absolute favorite. It speaks to my background and it makes me feel like someone understands where I am coming from. This probably means I am narcissistic, easily entertained, overly sentimental, and a sucker for wordplay and period films. But for me, watching “O Brother Where Art Thou” is like reading my favorite childhood story over and over; the adventure and beauty will never get old. 


One thought on “Sepia Toned Sappiness

  1. To be honest, I was not completely impressed with this movie the first time I saw it, well the story part anyway. I did like the scenery, colors, and overall cinematography (plus it never hurts to put Clooney in a movie). Over time, I have come to appreciate the humor of the main three actors and their interactions. I really believe them as the characters they portray, especially Tim Blake Nelson and John Turturro. Plus, it’s always interesting to see what the Coen brothers come up with next.

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