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Film / "O"

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O is a 2001 adaptation of William Shakespeare's Othello set in high school, directed by Tim Blake Nelson.

Odin (Mekhi Phifer) is the only black student at Palmetto Grove, where he is also the star basketball player, with hopes of reaching the NBA. His best friend, Hugo (Josh Hartnett), is jealous of Odin's success and attempts to ruin him by making him believe that his girlfriend Desi (Julia Stiles) is carrying on an affair. It gets worse.


O offers examples of:

  • Adaptation Name Change: Done in such a way that the names are still recognizable if you're familiar with the original play (Othello is Odin, Iago is Hugo, etc). Cassio's first name was Michael in the original anyway, so he gets to keep his full name. Oddly enough the minor character Bianca gets a name change too, even though that one wouldn't be unusual in a modern high school (she becomes Brandy).
  • Adaptational Jerkass: Emilia's counterpart Emily is a lot less sympathetic, considering she still fulfills her original role in the plot (stealing the keepsake from Desdemona so Iago can use it to discredit her) but lacks many of the context that made her more palatable to audiences; she's not in an abusive marriage nor a servant, so she's not obligated to obey every order given to her. There are several intimate details Hugo uses to manipulate Odin about Desi and Michael that could only have come from Emily. She does however come through and out Hugo once his role in the murder becomes clear to her.
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  • Axes at School: Not exactly, but close enough that it made people uncomfortable.
  • Book Ends: Hugo's speech about hawks opens and closes the film.
  • Butt-Monkey: Roger is nothing more than Hugo's lackey.
  • The Chessmaster: Hugo, as befits an update of Iago.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: As befitting an adaptation of the Ur-Example.
  • Downer Ending: Fairly close to the original Shakespeare play as Odin kills Desi, then himself. Hugo gets taken into police custody, but this is going to make him famous.
  • Driven to Suicide: O kills himself after murdering Desi and realizing he was set up by Hugo.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Hugo is addicted to steroids. Odin also goes off the deep end when he relapses into his cocaine addiction.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome:
    • Emily outs Hugo for his role in the plot, and repeatedly shouts "Hugo gave Michael the scarf" even when he threatens for her to be quiet. Sadly it gets her shot.
    • Before he dies, Odin calls for the rest of his classmates to know that he loved Desi and everything that's happened is because of Hugo (Brandy can confirm that he killed Rodger and Michael, Jason can say that Hugo was seen coming out of the room holding a gun after the shot that killed Emily).
  • For the Evulz: Downplayed from the original play in which Iago's motivations were far more ambiguous and shifted often. Here, Hugo's jealousy seems more genuine on account of his father paying more attention to Odin.
  • Freudian Excuse: Hugo is made much more sympathetic (though still an obvious bad guy) in this adaptation thanks to his father's extreme preference for Odin over his own son.
  • High School AU: To Othello, which got the movie in trouble, thanks to Columbine.
  • Jerk Jock: Michael often bullies Roger.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: The plan is for Hugo to kill Michael and Odin to kill Desi with the intention of making it look like a murder-suicide between them. The plan goes awry when Hugo's friend Roger shoots Michael in the leg, making it obvious that someone else had shot him.
  • Missing Mom: Both Desi and Odin's mothers are absent from the story. Odin refers to his mother getting sick, implying her to be dead.
  • Race Lift: 'Moor' in Shakespeare's day could refer to several different races from Arabs to tanned Caucasians, but modern pop culture imagines Othello as a black man. So here he's an African-American.
  • One-Woman Wail: Played over the "all my life I always wanted to fly" scene near the end. Courtesy of Giuseppe Verdi.
  • Questionable Consent: Desi and Odin's first sexual encounter starts off normally, but when he hallucinates an image of Michael having sex with her in the mirror, out of rage and jealousy, he gets rougher, prompting her to cry out and beg him to stop. He doesn't.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Emily finally owns up to stealing the scarf when it's too late to save Desi, but reveals everything Hugo has done. Then she gets shot.
  • Related in the Adaptation: The Duke of Venice's counterpart here is now the Iago counterpart's father.
  • Scary Black Man: Odin has this reputation at school and on the basketball court despite not being one. He evolves into one thanks to Hugo's actions.
  • Shout-Out: The Bard himself is referenced early on.
  • Slut-Shaming: Michael invokes this Double Standard by making fun of Brandy, the girl he is sleeping with, behind her back, calling her a slut.
  • Third-Act Misunderstanding: Hugo distorts a conversation that he and Michael have to "prove" to a hidden Odin that Michael and Desi are having sex. (As in the original Othello, Michael is actually talking about Brandy.)
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Hugo's father is this, often spending more time with Odin than his own son.