Hail, Caesar!

February 25, 2016

Review, Theatrical Leave a Comment

“…offers lots of surface-level charm and little else.”
Hail, Caesar! (1)

Hail, Caesar!

By Anthony O'Connor
Year: 2015
Rating: M
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen

George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Josh Brolin, Ralph Fiennes, Channing Tatum

Distributor: Universal
Released: February 25, 2016
Running Time: 106 minutes
Worth: $15.50

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“…offers lots of surface-level charm and little else.”

The Coen Brothers offer films in two distinct styles: their dark, contemplative works (Blood Simple, Fargo, No Country For Old Men), and their more comedic offerings (Raising Arizona, The Hudsucker Proxy, O Brother, Where Art Thou?). Hail, Caesar! belongs squarely in the latter category, and has an absolute winner of a premise.

It’s 1951, we’re in Hollywood, and Capitol Pictures’ head of physical production and “fixer”, Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), has a number of problems. Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), the lead actor of the studio’s big budget historical epic, Hail, Caesar!, has gone missing, apparently kidnapped by a group calling themselves “The Future.” Meanwhile, unmarried synchronised swimmer and actress, DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson), is pregnant (which will contradict her wholesome image); and singing western film star, Hobie Doyle (Aiden Ehrenreich), has been cast in a period drama directed by Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes), and the fit is not a good one, to say the least.

This intriguing “a few days in the life” conceit well suits the shaggy dog narrative of the film, and before the story is done, we meet a colourful cast of supporting characters, including Tilda Swinton playing twin sisters, Thora and Thessaly Thacker (who hate each other, naturally), and Channing Tatum as Burt Gurney, who provides the film’s best sequence – the outrageously camp and over-the-top musical number, “No Dames.”

The problem with Hail, Caesar! is that beyond the impeccable casting, era-appropriate sets and costumes, and typical Coen Brothers charm, there’s really not much of an overall point to the proceedings. The Big Lebowski and O Brother, Where Art Thou? had major moments of frothy goofiness, but they also boasted a weight and impact, and something to think about later on. Hail, Caesar!, by way of contrast, offers lots of surface-level charm and little else. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, as charm goes a long way, but in terms of the Coens’ overall oeuvre, Hail, Caesar! is endearing but inessential viewing.


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