A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
This film reminds viewers that nostalgia cannot be used to conceal the truth. What appears to be a comic, light-hearted look at the U.S. South almost a century ago in fact uses satire and irony to reveal the deep-seated racism, corruption, and amorality rampant at that time and in that place.
Positive Role Models
No one is safe from the Coen brothers' jaded perspective in this movie. People in politics, commerce, the arts, law enforcement, and religion are all painted with broad strokes as unscrupulous, conscienceless, and illiterate. Even the heroes of the story have a very thin moral code.
Violence & Scariness
All action is exaggerated and cartoonish. Characters fall out of a train; get trapped in a burning barn, crash through a wall of fire, engage in fist fights, and are involved in numerous vehicle accidents. The heroes are fired at with an automatic rifle, whacked in the head with a tree branch, whipped, threatened with hanging, and forced to rob a bank. The Ku Klux Klan captures an African-American musician and drags him toward a noose. A villain squashes a toad in his bare hand.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
In one scene, mythical sirens dressed in very little clothing beckon the heroes and begin a seduction which concludes off-camera.
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Frequent swearing and harsh language throughout. Multiple uses of: "damn," "Goddamnit," "son-of-a-bitch" (also pronounced "sumbitch"), "hell," "whore," "ass," "fornicate," "Jesus." Ethnic slurs are heard often: "colored," "nigra," "darkies," "Jews," "crackers," etc.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
One character chews a cigar. A flask that may contain alcohol is passed.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this comedy with its outlandish characters, infectious musical score, and slapstick action sequences has multiple levels of appeal. As for issues of concern for teens -- there are lots of swear words ("son-of-a-bitch," "hell's bells," "whore, and "Goddamnit"), many racial slurs ("nigras," "crackers," "darkies"), and a mind-bending Ku Klux Klan musical sequence. Characters (and a few animals) are frequently in jeopardy: trapped in a burning barn, beaten with a tree branch, threatened with hanging, shot at, chased, and more. The racial satire may provoke questions about the United States' history of racism that parents should be prepared to discuss. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This is a lighter story than many of the Coens' previous movies, which makes it easy to forgive the parts that don't work very well. And it gives us the pleasure of hearing the year's finest soundtrack, sheer bluegrass joy.
Like the Odyssey, the Ulysses of O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU is trying to get home to his wife before she marries one of her suitors. There are other echoes to that classic saga, from a blind seer who predicts that they will not find the treasure they seek to a one-eyed villain and three singing sirens to distract the travelers from their journey. As always, the Coen brothers present an array of quirky characters with faces closer to gargoyles and caricatures than to Hollywood prettiness. And there is the offbeat dialogue -- when Delmar, just baptized, says he has been saved by Jesus and a black guitar player says he just sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads, McGill replies, "Well, I guess I'm the only one who remains unaffiliated."
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.