Thursday, November 24, 2011

Posers Kill Shakespeare's Finest: O

The Good: I'll say moments of realistic dialog
The Bad: Horrible acting, Butchering of Shakespeare, Mistold story, Lack of character, Soundtrack
The Basics: Bland acting, lack of genuine characters and a butchering of a great work make O not worth your time or effort.

There are a million different arguments for what Shakespeare's very best work is, but I consistently argue for The Tragedy Of Othello as the bard's finest work. Most scholars will say Hamlet, but I think it requires too much reliance on the supernatural. Same with The Tragedy Of MacBeth. Othello uses far more intelligence by relying on basic human drives and the twisting of Othello's jealousy by Iago.

O is a remake of The Tragedy Of Othello set in contemporary times in a Southern private boarding high school. Odin is a star basketball player, Hugo is the neglected team player who is fed up with living in Odin's shadow. Sensing the bond between Odin and his girlfriend Desi, Hugo arranges for a wedge to be put between them. Addicted to steroids, Hugo insinuates Odin's best friend Michael between Desi and Odin and whispers lies to Odin about their relationship. Odin falls hard, going from star basketball player to drug user, sexual abuser and homicidal maniac.

What makes The Tragedy Of Othello work so well is that Iago is Othello's best friend and the two have a trust that is remarkable. O suffers first because Hugo's power over Odin doesn't read as realistic, especially in the somewhat pointless last half hour where Hugo manages to get Odin doing drugs. It doesn't make much sense when that comes up. Desi seems weak and uncertain, more than she does in Shakespeare's version.

Even outside an outright comparison between O and Shakespeare's classic, this film fails by a complete lack of character. This film is attempting to make a meaningful story but it misses the mark. Far. The most obvious flaw in the film is in the speech of the characters. They attend a preppy private school, yet most of them speak as if they come from the ghetto. And none of them have backgrounds that suggest such a need to speak that way.

But this is a film that tries to be accessible to the teen-idiot pop culture by using a heavy rap soundtrack and teen-beautiful actors and actresses in a setting that is not appropriate. The rap themes are completely out of place at the highly regulated school and it serves only to make a soundtrack that is marketable to teens.

Julia Stiles is pretty much the ultimate poser here, as a twenty year old (when she played the role) trying to be the ultimate 18 year old girl. But she seems like a person much older playing someone much younger and it's distracting. She's easy eye candy. Beyond that . . .

The only strong acting comes from the unbilled Martin Sheen who plays the over the top basketball coach.

PBS recently aired a remake of Othello set in modern England and it's a far better retelling of this wonderful tale than this immature attempt to sell today's teen stars in a movie that fails on every level.

For other works with Julia Stiles or Martin Sheen, please check out my reviews of:
The Bourne Identity
The West Wing
The Departed


For other movie reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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