Hail, Caesar! Movie Review
Writer and director team, Joel and Ethan Coen, aka: The Coen brothers, are a beloved force in today’s Hollywood. They have created a long list of great movies – my personal favorites being MILLER’S CROSSING, FARGO, THE BIG LEBOWSKI, O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? and NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (everyone’s list is different). Within all their movies, one can clearly see The Coen brothers love film. HAIL, CAESAR! is their comedic love letter to the golden age of old Hollywood.
Set in the 1950’s, HAIL, CAESAR! follows some of the inner shenanigans working on the big studio lot within a Hollywood production. Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is a Hollywood fixer who takes his work and his faith very seriously. Mannix’s main job is to keep the talent in line, usually by handing out a swift slap to the face, and he is a very busy man. Starlet DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) is pregnant without a husband, cowboy Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) is having difficulty transitioning from western to drama, and the studio’s biggest star, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), has been kidnapped by communists in the middle of filming the epic “Hail, Caesar!” (think BEN HUR or THE TEN COMMANDMENTS).
The film pokes fun at movies from yesteryear but it does so in the most loving and admiring way. Clearly the Coen brothers are fans of these old pictures but are still fully aware of some of the silliness they contain. Believability, writing, accents and pretty much all logic is forgone in favor for casting a charismatic face. The large cast involved do a fantastic job with the material even if many of them are not on screen for very long and when they are, are usually making fun of their profession. The actor does not come off in the brightest light. Tilda Swinton plays competing twin sisters gossip columnists. Ralph Fiennes and Christopher Lambert come off looking the best as directors trying to achieve their vision competing against the studio’s assigned actors. And as long as you don’t blink, you might catch Frances McDormand and Jonah Hill. However, Channing Tatum is the one who steals the show with a big song and dance number randomly thrown into the picture. Reminiscent of Danny Kaye, Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, Tatum’s number is easily my favorite part and one that will be remembered for year’s to come as a true ode to some of film’s great musical numbers from the past.
HAIL, CAESAR! starts out very strong, with lots of laugh out loud moments and a general likability that keeps a smile on your face. Unfortunately, the film is unable to maintain that consistency and slowly nosedives, losing most of the momentum it had cleverly built up. Save for one final bit, once again involving Tatum’s character, the film lacks the amount of humor from with it began, squandering all the energy it may have possessed.
HAIL, CAESAR! may be best suited for a very niche audience – those who are passionate and knowledgable about film, probably at the very least thirty plus years old, and a Coen brothers fanatic. I nearly hit all these requirements and I still didn’t love it. While I consider myself a fan of Joel and Ethan Coen, I’m not a fanatic. Like many of their films, it may grow on me, as I truly loved many aspects of HAIL, CAESAR!. I just wished it could have maintained that level of greatness. But there is no denying the Coen brothers talent, wit and love for cinema, that one might conclude is almost a religious experience for the two.