The writing, directing, and producing team of Joel Coen and Ethan Coen created this picaresque comedy (inspired in part by Homer's The Odyssey) set in the Deep South during the Depression. Suave and fancy-talking Everett Ulysses McGill (George Clooney), dim-witted Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson), and easily-excitable Pete (John Turturro) are serving time together on a prison chain gang. Everett knows where $1.2 million is hidden that's theirs for the taking, and the three manage to escape; however, a stranger soon warns them that they'll find treasure, but not the sort they're looking for. As Everett and his partners hit the road, they happen upon a gluttonous bible salesman, Big Dan Teague (John Goodman); meet up with Baby Face Nelson (Michael Badalucco) as he robs a bank; encounter three Sirens doing their washing; run into Everett's estranged wife Penny (Holly Hunter), who has told everyone her husband was killed in a train wreck; find themselves in the middle of a heated campaign between political boss Pappy O'Daniel (Charles Durning), and reformist candidate Homer Stokes (Wayne Duvall); and even find time to make a hit record as The Soggy Bottom Boys. Noted songwriter T-Bone Burnett helped compile the songs (combining vintage country blues tunes with originals in the same style), while Carter Burwell composed the background score. Incidentally, the title O Brother, Where Art Thou? is a reference to the classic Preston Sturges comedy Sullivan's Travels, in which a director plans to make a serious "message picture" with that name.
by Mark Deming synopsis