Love them or loathe them, the Coen brothers are back with an epic, star-studded lambast of Hollywood’s glory days.
It’s the early 1950s—and the studios run Hollywood, city of dreams and epicentre of the film industry. Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is head of production at Capitol Pictures, and he works as a ‘fixer’, doing what’s necessary to allow the studio to run smoothly and to keep the scandalous behavior of its stars out of the press.
Eddie starts his day early, as he goes about stamping out studio fires. At 5am, we find him knocking down the door on a house where one of his studio’s prized starlets is partaking in an unauthorised photo-shoot.
As his day continues, there’s more work to be done. He must consult with a meeting of religious figures about his depiction of Christ in his latest epic; one of his stars is abducted; another is pregnant out of wedlock, and the press is sniffing a sordid story. His biggest star has a southern twang and an inability to deliver lines, and his lead tap dancer might just be leading something far more sinister.
The seemingly unflappable Mannix takes it all in his stride, moving smoothly from one potential crisis to the next. However, in ways similar to the detached ambivalence with which Mannix operates, we the audience soon find ourselves disconnected from this jumpy and at times patchy plot.
Hail, Caesar! returns us to the golden days of cinema through the sardonic imaginings of the Coen brothers. Loaded with the stars of our modern era, each scene evokes a different film genre, and is presented with lush visual decadence.
The humour here is scene by scene, and the level of success varies equally. While the exchange between one director and his ill-prepared star is utterly brilliant, the next scene—which sees communist writers attempt a kidnapping—is unnecessarily intellectual (yet not especially sophisticated), and misses its audience with a thud.
Hail, Caesar! is, like the big budget studio it depicts, a little too manufactured. This may not present a problem to fans of the Coen Brothers who will naturally luxuriate in their expert screenwriting prowess; but for the majority, it may likely be a stale though pretty experience.
As enjoyable as it is to see Channing Tatum evoke the wonder of Gene Kelly, and even though Brolin as more than serviceable in his role—at 116 minutes in length, you may wish for a little more entertainment as a whole.
Visually impressive, yet lacking the sharpness of writing for which the Coen brothers have become known, Hail, Caeser! is a film of stars, but by no means a star film.
Director: Ethan Coen and Joel Coen
Stars: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Scarlett Johannsen
Release Date: Feb 25
Reviewer Rating: 3/5