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“O” is a modern day movie remake of Shakespeare’s “Othello”. The modernization turns Othello into a teenage basketball player named Odin struggling to survive as the only black kid at an exclusively white prep school. Despite this, life seems to go relatively well for him. He’s the star of the team, scored the dean’s daughter, Desi, and achieves the approval of everyone around him, particularly his coach. Little does Odin know that this streak of success unintentionally sparks jealousy within the coach’s son, Hugo. It becomes Hugo’s goal to sabotage the life of his fellow teammate and with the help of his roommate Roger and girlfriend Emily he just might succeed. Little do either of them know how this will spiral into a cornucopia of events neither of them will be able to handle.


Can anyone tell me why we like to make movies of classic literature set in high school ? “Romeo and Juliet”, but with young heartthrob Leonardo DiCaprio! “Dangerous Liaisons” in New York City! Also in high school! Why don’t we make Media black while we’re at it? Admittedly this formula isn’t impossible, but when you’re dealing with any retelling or remake of anything the result with either be a change so drastically different tit will be considered brilliant to detrimental compared to the original, or there will be so little change that there wouldn’t have been a point in creating it at all. You also have to deal with how the fans of the original will think of it. So how does “O” hold up?


Well to start with most of the transitions from the story don’t work. I’m not speaking of the obvious changes to the names and roles, I’m talking about the most important part of any Shakespearian story: the language. It’s enough of a stretch for us to believe Odin is the only black student at this school in the 21st century, but then they claim that all of these high class white kids are listening to bad rap at parties and using slang. I’m not going to pretend high school kids don’t swear, ball all of these characters talk like they just walked out of a Jay-Z concert. Sure there’s still racism today, but “Othello” was groundbreaking for its time because it was written way before black characters were focused on or given any consideration. But the movie’s worst transition and biggest problem is that the motivations of these characters do not translate well into a high school drama. “Shakespeare” and “revenge” are words practically intertwined with one another, so int’s understandable why these themes are present here, but there is wanting revenge on someone who stole your job and there is wanting to ruin his life because daddy likes him better. There is also a considerable difference between suspecting your wife cheating on you in marriage and your girlfriend cheating on you during high school. And of course none of these situations usually lead to murder.


This hurts the movie since towards the end the motivations lead to acts of revenge that have consequences the story is capable of holding weight and tension. I think this is because there is a strong bunch of people who worked on this. Mekhi Phifer (“8 Mile”), Josh Hartnett (“30 Days of Night”), Julia Stiles (The Bourne Trilogy), and, of all people, Martin Sheen (“Apocalypse Now”. Seriously, was he just bored and jump when he heard “Othello”?) and others do a good job in their roles prior to their fame. Even thought the director hasn’t done much else he does a decent job her and judging by the opening shot of brown of a brown falcon in a flock of doves he seems to understand the basics of symbolism. But the strength of the these performances and the tight climax doesn’t hold as much weight when in the back of your mind know the reasons for the characters doing so are so weak. You can’t translate the actions of an adult to a teenage and expect it to retain the same effect.


So in conclusion while “O” tries hard and is well meaning it forgets that the story is too old and mature for high school. It’s not that bad, but you should only give it a try if you haven’t read or don’t mind the changes from “Othello”. I give it two backs out of four.



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