O

"Good"

O Review


Well, all good classics eventually come to a crashing end (Planet of the Apes, anyone?), and the works of Shakespeare are no exception. This time out, it's Othello that gets an urban/teen makeover -- and considering that Slick Willy's themes about the hazards of interracial relationships are still present after 400 years, you'd think O would be a gimme. No such luck.

With this updating, Othello and Desdemona have become Odin and Desi. Odin (Mekhi Phifer) is the sole black student at a ritzy prep school for the overly wealthy. He's also the star basketball player, destined for greatness in college ball, at least. He carries on a semi-secret love affair with Desi (Julia Stiles), a waifish Julia Stiles stock character, who is also the daughter of the dean (John Heard). The basketball coach (Martin Sheen) favors his star player, of course, virtually ignoring his own son Hugo (Josh Hartnett, in the famed and villainous Iago role), who even turns to steroids (gasp!) to improve his performance in an attempt to match Odin's court prowess. After years of no luck and less love, Hugo eventually masterminds a plan to disgrace Odin... all of which ends disastrously, as you know if you've ever read the play.

Unfortunately, while the real Othello spins a web of rage, misplaced trust, and betrayal, O portrays its characters as snotty brats who suffer through daily temper tantrums. Romeo and Juliet works in the teen genre because it's about teens. Othello is about adults with adult problems, namely a Moor suffering from a lifetime of persecution (and a poor choice of friends). O's Odin has just about everything he could ask for, despite having grown up "in the hood." Both Phifer and his character simply have no life experience to justify Odin's actions (Phifer's crucial experience in MTV's Carmen: A Hip Hopera notwithstanding). When the murderous finale eventually rolls around, it doesn't play as remotely believable.

Also, despite a 91 minute running time, the film drags. It takes at least half an hour to establish a) that Odin is a great basketball player, b) that he is in love with Desi, and c) that Hugo is pissed about a and b. The remainder of the movie is better paced, but not a lot.

From a technical standpoint, O is a much bigger mess. Directed by O Brother, Where Art Thou? actor Tim Blake Nelson, who has directed some creepy stuff in the past, including 1997's Eye of God, the film's biggest flaw is an abrupt, almost bad, editing job -- coming in to scenes too late and leaving too soon, and vice versa. The constant rap music soundtrack is appealing at first but becomes a grating noise after the halfway mark. And in the final act, details are garbled, glossed-over, or just plain wrong, all this despite Hugo's promise that he has considered every option in his "master plan."

None of this is meant to say that O is a total waste of time. At the very least, it's a far better film than the obtuse 1995 version of Othello, which starred Lawrence Fishburne and strayed far from the original tale but still relied on cryptic Elizabethan-era English. O is far more faithful to the original story than I would have suspected, even handling those tricky asides and character-hiding-in-a-closet scenes with aplomb. Ultimately, the source material keeps O mostly afloat, telling a unique and tragic story about how a single, well-placed rumor can ruin the life of somebody who otherwise has it made.

Mired in the "marketing violent movies to teens is bad" controversy of 1999-2000, O has been sitting on the shelf for a while, building a large volume of clips that claim it's the most violent thing since Natural Born Killers. A word to audiences -- this is far from the truth. In fact, those expecting a Columbine-style rampage (a ridiculous link which I've nonetheless found in 538 articles on Nexis.com) will be disappointed by the relatively tame ending -- comprising four gunshots and a quiet strangling.

O sister, where art thou?



Facts and Figures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Steve-O

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

The latest adaptation of Agatha Christie's 83-year-old classic whodunit, this lavish, star-studded film is old-style...

Paddington 2 Movie Review

Paddington 2 Movie Review

The first Paddington movie in 2014 is already such a beloved classic that it's hard...

A Bad Moms Christmas Movie Review

A Bad Moms Christmas Movie Review

Everyone's back from last year's undemanding adult comedy, plus some starry new cast members, for...

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Movie Review

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Movie Review

Filmmaker S. Craig Zahler brought a blast of offbeat creativity to the Western genre two...

The Death of Stalin Movie Review

The Death of Stalin Movie Review

Fans of the film In the Loop and the TV series Veep will definitely not...

Call Me By Your Name Movie Review

Call Me By Your Name Movie Review

Set in northern Italy in the summer of 1983, this internationally flavoured drama is a...

Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review

Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review

The most riotously enjoyable Marvel movie yet, this action epic benefits hugely from the decision...

Advertisement
Breathe Movie Review

Breathe Movie Review

While this biopic has the standard sumptuous production values of a British period drama, it's...

The Snowman Movie Review

The Snowman Movie Review

With a cast and crew packed with A-list talent, this film seems like it should...

The Party Movie Review

The Party Movie Review

Comedies don't get much darker than this pitch-black British movie, written and directed by Sally...

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) is on his way to becoming the new Woody Allen, which...

6 Below Movie Review

6 Below Movie Review

Based on an astonishing true survival story, this film is subtitled "Miracle on the Mountain",...

Mother Movie Review

Mother Movie Review

Darren Aronofsky doesn't make fluffy movies, and has only had one genuine misfire (2014's Noah)....

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

It's been 35 years since Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic, which was set in 2019....

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.