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

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago,...

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Like the 2015 original, this comedy plays merrily with cliches to tell a silly story...

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Ferdinand Movie Review

Ferdinand Movie Review

This animated comedy adventure is based on the beloved children's book, which was published in...

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Director Dave McCary makes a superb feature debut with this offbeat black comedy, which explores...

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A dramatisation of the real-life clash between tennis icons Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs,...

Shot Caller Movie Review

Shot Caller Movie Review

There isn't much subtlety to this prison thriller, but it's edgy enough to hold the...

Advertisement
The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

A hilariously outrageous story based on real events, this film recounts the making of the...

Stronger Movie Review

Stronger Movie Review

Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one...

Only the Brave Movie Review

Only the Brave Movie Review

Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its...

Wonder Movie Review

Wonder Movie Review

This film may be based on RJ Palacio's fictional bestseller, but it approaches its story...

Happy End  Movie Review

Happy End Movie Review

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning...

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to...

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.