Starring: Josh Brolin, George Clooney and Alden Ehrenreich
Directed By: Joel and Ethan Coen
Running Time: 106 minutes
Our Score: 4 out of 5 Stars
The Coen brothers seemingly find a way, movie after movie, to blend genres and create something completely unique, pushing the envelope about what theater goers expect in terms of storytelling, plot, and character development. “Hail, Caesar!” is no different. There’s no denying the Coen brothers talent when it comes to their dramatic works, but when they focus solely on their comedic efforts, it yields a unique array of ideas. They’ve crafted cult classics, toe tapping musicals, and dull remakes. “Hail, Caesar!” falls on the high end of that their comedic works.
There’s a pretentious nature to what the Coen brothers do. There’s an inside joke to a lot of their movies, and if you don’t get, they won’t tell you. The inside joke to “Hail, Caesar!” is the film industry, celebrities, the 1950’s, and I’m sure something else. Someone my age may not understand the mocking nature of the inner workings of the movie studios, the nuances of an era before my time, or the parody nature of the movies shown during the fabulous fifties, but I still enjoyed the oddball nature of “Hail, Caesar!”. It’s a blown kiss and slap in the face to the Hollywood industry.
Eddie Mannix (Brolin) is a “fixer” for Capitol Pictures. His job is to run around all day, making sure the press doesn’t get wind of the latest shocking scandal (a starlet having a child out of wedlock), making sure productions are up to snuff, and that the men financing everything are happy. Of course for “Hail, Caesar!”, he’s also trying to find out where studio star, Baird Whitlock (Clooney) has run off to. Well, he hasn’t gone on one of his alcoholic benders or, as his wife puts it, at some floozies place. But Baird has been kidnapped.
Most other movies would make this plotline essential to the storytelling aspect of this movie, but the Coen brothers find entertainment in the array of movie products, random actors and actresses, and Eddie’s personal home life. There are so many cameos in this movie, it’s impossible to talk about every single one, as well as their subtleties that they add to the plot, the various themes, or their potential jab at real-life events and celebrities. Of course, as I stated earlier, the character may be a part of an inside joke that you may or may not get.
So in essence, it’s a Coen brother’s movie. “Hail, Caesar!” is rich with witty dialogue involving thick-headed actors and sophisticated directors. Channing Tatum, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Jonah Hill, Wayne Knight, Frances McDormand, and others are scattered about, adding their own flavor to the movie. At times it can be overwhelming, but equally underwhelming at times, especially when we find out who has kidnapped Baird and why.
Just take a step back and accept that this is a screwball, ensemble comedy. With that in mind, you should be able to enjoy it’s, at times, confusing narrative. like a fine wine, I expect “Hail, Caesar!” to age gracefully and be a delight to watch occasionally, much like “Raising Arizona” or “The Big Lebowski”. It’s not a masterpiece by “Fargo” and “No Country for Old Men” standards, but it’s certainly a fine addition to the Coen’s collection.