Passion or Security? Selflessness or Self preservation? Faith or Skepticism? We ponder all of these questions in Hail,Caeser!, the latest from Academy Award winning filmmaking brothers Ethan and Joel Coen. The Coen Brothers bring us a wacky and marginally lighter comedy on their scale of dark that has a star studded cast and charming depth.
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen
Release Date: February 5th, 2016
Hail,Caeser! takes place during the golden age of Hollywood, a time in which new genres were formed, new stars were born, and the studio system rose to mammoth status. Josh Brolin plays Eddie Mannix, a studio fixer and head of physical production at Capitol Pictures, who ponders if all the hard work he does at the studio is worth it after being offered a job in a more “secure” industry. Meanwhile, a revered British director that Eddie must keep pleased at all times Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes) hassles Eddie about his overrated and under-experienced lead actor while also dealing with starlet DeeAnna Moran’s (Scarlett Johansson) promiscuity and infidelity as she maintains her squeaky clean image. Amidst the day-to-day troubles, the studio’s biggest star, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), a delightfully clueless A-Lister, is drugged and kidnapped by Communists.
Hail, Caesar! brings together a wonderful cast of eccentric Hollywood types all lost in their own journey to the top. Channing Tatum plays a young handsome star named Burt Gurney and gives us a dazzling musical number that channels a performance to the likes of Gene Kelly. Quirky characters like twin gossip columnist both played by Tilda Swinton keep Eddie on his toes as he constantly has to do redirect their attention to avoids scandals. The cameos range from Jonah Hill to cult legends like Christopher Lambert and Dolph Lundren. Brolin leads this ensemble effortlessly as he counterbalances with his even-keeled demeanor and morality.
Though slow in tone Hail, Caesar! manages to keep you engaged with great performances and collage of zany personalities that one encounters in business of “the pictures”. Cinematographer Roger Deakins helps bring this era to to life with a beautifully shot film that makes us reminisce of a more simplistic, cheerful time in film. This satirical comedy bounces genres as we experience the over the top choreographed dances of a classic musicals, the dramatic monologue of a historical epic, and the moody and shadowy noir. It memorializes and mocks an era that ended long ago yet still feels familiar today through the performances that showcase the wide range of colorful and entertaining characters. In some ways it matches thematically in tone with Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman as it gives us a look into the psychological turmoil that is the love affair with the film industry.
Eddie Mannix ultimately has to decide whether to take the safe and comfortable route or the difficult yet more fulfilling route. He navigates through being the Hollywood tough guy while being a genuinely good man that just wants to make movies. Seemingly reflective of the filmmakers themselves. Hail, Caesar! has moments that seem to drag but is ultimately funny, thought provoking, and irresistibly clever. It leaves us questioning whether Hollywood is about positive creative forces of expression or a capitalist propaganda tool…either way it’ll be around.