Movie review by Rhiannon Bruni, Common Sense Media
O Poster Image

Common Sense says

age 17+

Imaginative, arresting Shakespeare retelling.

R 2001 95 minutes

Parents say

age 17+

Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 16+

Based on 25 reviews

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Community Reviews

age 17+

O maybe No

Shakespearean adaptations for film are always tricky. Everyone waits with baited breath...will it be interesting? will we understand the language? will we care? will it be high art? low art? faux art? This one is a bit clunky...but I would argue that the original play also has some clunky parts...but it is in Iago's/Hugo's deliciously hateful behavior that we are all sucked in. In O the hip hop overlay feels forced and a bit too, "look at how hip we are! We know about Black Star!" but that is true of many films that try to capture the spark of youth. The last 30 minutes merge the Bard and the prep school update seamlessly. Everyone commits and we are left to pick up the pieces.
age 18+

Shakespeare in a Movie?!

Shakespeare staged in high school? I wonder why no one else thought of that. As far as captivating teenagers with century old pieces goes, director Tim Blake Nelson and screenwriter Brad Kaaya most definitely succeeded in catching my attention. Their collaborative effort “O” resembles Shakespeare's tragic play Othello except scenes are staged in more modern stages. The action in “O” takes place at a modern private, southern, high school, where as Othello is staged many centuries ago in a battlefield in Cyprus. A violent, captivating tale of betrayal and love, “O” portrays the dangers and disasters of simply trusting a jealous man’s words. Starring Mekhl Phifer, an African American, as Odin, a popular star basketball player, truly makes the connection to Othello in terms of Othello, who indeed shares some of the characteristic of Odin of being personable and being a star in his own way. But just as Othello had an enemy, Iago, Odin did as well, but his enemy goes by the name of Hugo (Josh Hartnett). Hugo, Odin’s extremely jealous best friend, costs Odin his love, Desi Brable (Julia Stiles) and essentially his sanity. Hugo manipulates Odin into believing Desi has an affair with one of Odin’s teammates, Michael Cassio (Andrew Keegan), which causes him to eventually take his lover’s life. Othello and Odin are practically two perfect people except for one tragic flaw: their jealousy. Iago and Hugo both take advantage of that flaw and plot Othello’s and Odin’s downfall. Being a realistic and violent film, “O” left me personally drained. The ending of the movie stands to be very abrupt as Odin just pulls out a gun out of nowhere and shoots everyone in a frenzy. Everyone except Hugo. Why not shoot the guy that created this whole mess in the first place? Although currently, it seems very practicable for a disturbed teenager to pull out a gun, however, in the movie, it just makes the ending seem rushed. Odin’s anger and frustration did not seem to lead up to the point where we he would end up shooting his classmates. Although it is possible for a shooting like this to happen in a school, the events leading up to the shooting seem very impracticable. I mean, who goes and stuffs their girlfriend’s face with a pillow just because of a rumor? And shooting someone just because they are stating their opinion? This is America, freedom of speech, obviously. The setting of the film kind of worked and kind of did not. Although it is a modern version, some actions such as killing someone because of infidelity seems like something that would have happened centuries ago. Now, people just break up and move on. Director Tim Blake Nelson and screenwriter Brad Kaaya, however, make sure to Shakespeare’s original work and the same connections from the play could be made to the movie. Mekhl portrays Odin’s/Othello’s vulnerable, talented, and insecure character flawlessly which really makes the movie seem like Shakespeare’s play. All the other actors do a fine job of conveying the angst of being teenagers and display the appropriate behaviors for their characters. I would definitely recommend this movie to adults and older teenagers and to be extremely cautious with this movie around children as it sends improper messages about drugs, alcohol, and friendships.

This title has:

Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

Movie Details

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