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Tough Coach Duke Goulding leaves nothing untried to lead his almost exclusively white boarding school basketball team, the Hawks, to victory after victory, but his own son Hugo feels his polyvalent technical excellence and tireless efforts -which require using stimulants- are not getting anything like the recognition he deserves, especially when coach gives the best player award to Odin James, the only black teammate, even saying he loves Odin like his own son, who in turn only calls super-rich Michael Cassio to share in the honor. So Hugo, who is liked by everyone, decides to set up the boys who stole his glory, and he knows a cocky adolescent's weak points are his pride and his girl. This Dixie Jago schemes to bring down a black Othello and his Cassio, playing into the poisonous power of jealousy, however badly this also hurts their loved ones and the whole team... Written by
There is an REM poster on the wall next to Emily's bed. Rain Phoenix is friends with REM, and is the main character in their "At My Most Beautiful" video. See more »
When Odin and Hugo are in Hugo's room talking about Mike and Desi, the jacket hanging on the bed changes positions. See more »
All my life I always wanted to fly. I always wanted to live like a hawk. I know you're not supposed to be jealous of anything, but... to take flight, to soar above everything and everyone, now that's living.
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Jealousy can drive someone to extreme lengths. A constant theme in literature and in film, no matter how extreme it is, it always hits close to home because everyone is jealous of someone or something. Such extreme jealousy is the subject of "O", a suspenseful high school drama based on Shakespeare's "Othello" (which I'm not familiar with, so I'm uncertain how faithful "O" is to its source) and was held back from release for over a year following the Columbine shootings, at a time when everything that involved teenagers and violence was censored in the paranoid American media. Thankfully, the film was not shelved permanently, as such would be a great loss to the art of film.
Any drama relies heavily on the cast to make it believable, and "O" sports what was easily the best teen cast as well as one of the best casts overall in 2001. Mekhai Phifer is one to watch (though he isn't as typecast in teen roles as the other leads) as Odin, the betrayed, and the most real character in the movie. Unsure of who to trust, and played for a fool by his devious jealous "friend" Hugo (Josh Hartnett), one feels his disparity and paranoia. Less than a week after seeing (and trashing) him in the horrid "40 Days and 40 Nights", Josh Hartnett redeems himself and shows that, given the right character, his relative coldness and stoic nature can work well; "O" is without a doubt his best performance, and hopefully this has opened an opportunity for him away from awful bubble gum romance flicks. The final lead liberated from teen-movie hell is Julia Stiles' Desi, who is just as confused and angry as Phifer's Odin. The pair has some chemistry at the beginning, but when the lies and allegations arrive the two ignite.
The film's setting in a prep school in the Carolinas adds much to the character's conflicts, particularly Odin's. As the only African-American in a Southern private school, another layer to his character is that he still has to contend with proving himself against racism, and his interracial relationship with Desi may still cause controversy in some viewing circles. As a spoiled rich teen, Hugo is that much more angry when he doesn't get what he wants and is overshadowed by Odin, particularly in his father (the coach of the team)'s eyes. The sense of privacy and secrecy that a prep school instills in an audience (at least an audience that doesn't attend one) adds even more to the suspense and the complicatedness of Hugo's elaborate plan.
The plan is elaborate, complex, and cold-hearted is relatively easy to follow and unexpected at the same time. It all fits together perfectly, with only one minor plot hole (what happens to the school mascot?) and one unnecessary detracting character (the drug dealer who appears in a couple scenes without connection to any of the characters). As it steadily and seamlessly unfolds and the plot thickens, it becomes more amazing that someone like Hugo could even exist and feel so strongly as to commit such despicable acts. Yet the whole time, Hugo is cool and collected, and his plan never leaves the bounds of realism. It's powerful, and a terrible vision of the most intimate relationships forced apart in the name of jealousy.
"O" is one of those rare movies that can take a cast of hot teen faces and really make them shine in a well-written, well-acted film that they can be proud of when they outgrow teen idolatry. It may turn off their prime audiences, but it shows the rest of us what they are truly capable of if given the opportunity, and with this cast, it is hoped they can be paired with such an excellent, challenging film again.
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