The Bye Bye Man
The Bye Bye Man is the kind of film that is so boring and bereft of anything of possible interest that it becomes infuriating.
Odin James (whose initials, ''O.J.,'' are surely not a coincidence) is also, like Othello, too easily made jealous--it is his fatal flaw. Desi (Julia Stiles) loves him and is faithful to him, but he cannot bring himself to trust her, and that is his downfall. His supposed friend Hugo (Josh Hartnett) plants the seeds of doubt, suggesting Desi is secretly sleeping with another student, Michael (Andrew Keegan). And there is an antique scarf, which Odin gives to Desi and which seems to become evidence of the cheating.
Again, all from Shakespeare, although the movie creates Hugo's (Iago's) motivation. Hugo's father is the basketball coach (Martin Sheen), but dinnertime at their house is a grim and silent affair, and when the coach says of Odin ''I love him like my own son,'' look for Hugo's reaction shot. It is sometimes forgotten that Iago doesn't want Desdemona for himself. He simply uses her as a way to bring about Othello's downfall, correctly observing that jealousy triggers his enemy's weakness. It is Roderigo who was Desdemona's former lover (here presented as Roger Rodriguez, and played by Elden Henson as Hugo's gullible accomplice in treachery).
There have been and will be many modern retreads of Shakespeare. "O'' is close in spirit to Baz Luhrmann's teen-gang version of ''William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet.'' It isn't a line-by-line update but an attempt to reproduce the passion of the original play, and for younger viewers new to Shakespeare, it would only enhance a reading of the real thing. The film's misfortune, however, is that it was being made at the time of the Columbine tragedy, and was immediately deemed unreleasable by Miramax, which shelved it for two years; Lions Gate is now the distribution company.
We have a peculiar inability in our country to understand the contexts of things; when it comes to art, we interpret troublesome works in the most literal and simple-minded way. In the aftermath of Columbine, Washington legislators called on Hollywood to police itself, and rumbled about possible national censorship. Miramax caved in by suppressing this film. To suggest that ''O'' was part of the solution and not part of the problem would have required a sophistication that our public officials either lack, or are afraid to reveal, for fear of offending the bottom-feeders among their constituents.
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