A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
Directed By: Joel & Ethan Coen
Written By: Joel & Ethan Coen
Produced By: Joel & Ethan Coen, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner
Starring: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Channing Tatum,
Running Time: 106 Minutes
Nostalgic and celebratory in a way, The Coen Brothers’ latest outing is a beautifully crafted blend of the observations of Barton Fink and the sheer nonsense of Burn After Reading. An intriguing story with a delightfully chaotic and perplexing aura, Hail, Caesar!, the pair’s seventeenth picture is certainly an ambitious one, contrasting the kidnapping of an A-list movie star with the general business of the assembly line industry.
With an enormous cast and a smattering of scenes seemingly unrelated but all connected by Josh Brolin’s Eddie Mannix in one way or another, Hail, Caesar! is scattered, messy and nonplusing, yet there is a lot of fun to be had.
1950’s Hollywood is the backdrop for the story. Eddie Mannix is a fixer, patrolling the studios, making and taking calls, watching the dailies, confessing his sins and monitoring various cast and crew, all in a days work.
It’s after his primary star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) is kidnapped however, that Mannix is sent into a frenzy, dealing with anonymous abductors, the press, his wife, associates and everyone in between.
Observing the Hollywood culture of the 1950’s in a charmingly evocative way, the overall feel of Hail, Caesar! is warm, fanciful and absurd, all with enough self-awareness and tonal relentlessness as one has come to expect from the Coens. However there’s something lacking.
For all it’s wonderfully entertaining parts, the way in which each component serves the narrative at large is questionable. It seems the whole is not as great as the sum of its parts in this regard, and sadly it’s quite a noteworthy flaw with the picture.
It’s a wonderful sampling of the various aspects of the culture of 50’s Tinseltown, however the relation between the multi-faceted world of the industry and the primary narrative don’t connect as well as they would on paper.
The cast at points feels shoehorned in to sell tickets (here’s looking at you, Jonah Hill), which feels slightly deceptive and cheap coming out of the film.
Although this is the case for many of the endlessly talented cast, to their credit, some of them provide the best scenes in the entire picture.
If it’s not Channing Tatum’s dance number, it’s Scarlett Johansson’s hypnotic synchronised swimming scene. If it’s not Ralph Fiennes instructing his star on how to eloquently deliver his line, it’s Francis McDormand epitomising the stereotypical reclusive editor flawlessly.
Again, the sum of it’s parts is greater than the whole.
For such a star-studded cast, it’s refreshing and surprising to emerge the other side of the picture thinking solely of the performance of young Alden Ehrenreich. Not only matching but surpassing his co-stars, he steals the show completely as the Western action star and musical heartthrob with a thick deep southern accent.
Playing on every trope of the all-American western star of the era, Ehrenreich puts himself on the map and solidifies himself as one of the more memorable Coen Brothers characters.
Keep your eyes peeled for not only a scene of pure dialogue-driven Coen Brothers magic between Fiennes and Ehrenreich, but a punchline to a previously established joke that indicates a professional, intelligent understanding of the power and nature of delivery – one of the more uproarious moments of the picture.
Films that poke fun at the industry where dreams are made often make for some entertainingly satirical outings, and Hail, Caesar! is no exception.
Returning back to the goofball comedic style they’ve found immense success with over the years, their latest may not compare to the likes of Fargo, The Big Lebowski or even Burn After Reading (a personal favourite), however there are parts within the picture that remind us of the incredible storytelling abilities these brothers possess (and the connections they have in the industry).
An ambitious story with some rock-solid performances and the occasional classic moment of brilliance, Hail,Caesar! will amaze few, perplex some but satisfy most.