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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

MOVIE REVIEW

O
Directed by
Tim Blake Nelson
Starring Mekhi Phifer,
Josh Hartnett
and Julia Stiles
Tim Blake Nelson retells the story of Shakespeare’s Othello on the basketball courts of an elite private school. Odin (Phifer) is the big man on campus: a star basketball player, a diligent student, a charming gentleman to his beautiful girlfriend Desi (Stiles) and most of all, the envy of his supposed best friend Hugo (Hartnett). In the movie, Hugo attempts to sabotage Odin’s life by making him think that Desi is cheating on him. From there, his life spirals downward.
Nelson’s release of O was postponed because of the Columbine shooting a few years ago. His rendition of the story could have definitely sparked controversy through the retelling of one of Shakespeare’s phenomenal tragedies. The movie takes place in a high school and has a violent ending involving guns. For this reason, it was not appropriate for the movie to be released during aftermath of Columbine.
O has an excellent cast, but unfortunately it is a movie of average stature. At times, one feels as if they are sitting through a very mediocre high school production of Othello, and at other times, one feels as if they are watching an original version of the play.
Nelson unquestionably utilizes many of the original aspects of the play. One of the main symbols of the play is Desi’s scarf that Odin gives her as a present. This mirrors the original play in that Othello gives a handkercheif to Desdemona as a gift. The scarf supposedly represents Desi’s sexual innocence and her naive perspective in what is happening around her. Even Nelson’s character names reflect which character is which: Odin (Othello), Desi (Desdemona), and Hugo (Iago).
The movie gives the audience a sense that nothing good is going to happen. From the very beginning, Nelson does an excellent job of setting an ambiance of a dark and dismal tragedy, primarily with dark lighting. Each of the characters, particularly the principals, perfectly fit the molds of Shakespeare’s originals. Odin is confident and gullible while Desi is sweet, naive and beautiful. One automatically sees that Hugo is up to no good and that something bad is going to happen.
O follows the structure of Othello with a modern twist, but there is something that Shakespeare does with his plays that Nelson does not measure up to. O can be considered a movie that is in limbo between the two, but the movie does teach a good lesson: Do not believe everything what you don’t see with your own two eyes. (Grade: C)
Dino Ramos

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