Title: Hail, Caesar!
Release Date: February 5th, 2016
Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen
Release Format: Theatrical
The Golden Age of Hollywood is a time not many nowadays may really know about as it is a culture we don’t show that often. Between the 1930’s and late 50’s the world of cinema boomed with life, ushering in droves of films for the widely growing audiences. Hail, Caesar! a film by the talented Coen Brothers seeks to both honor and poke fun at the movie industry during this illustrious period. There is a lot of love clearly put into Hail, Caesar! as every bit of it is oozing with nostalgic love for the films of old. While this is largely successful, a few issues keep Hail, Caesar! from being one of the Coen’s best films.
———————————Minor Spoiler Alert Below!———————————————-
Following the story of Capitol Pictures executive Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) and his colorful entourage as they try to finish the studio’s new Biblical Epic titled Hail, Caesar!. When lead actor Brad Whitlock (George Clooney) goes missing, it’s up to Mannix to not only locate Whitlock but keep the rest of the studio afloat with the myriad of other projects. Hail, Caesar! has a few stories being juggled at once within the hour and forty minute runtime. Supporting characters Whitlock and cowboy star Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) receive a fair amount of screen time to help flush out their characters, but sadly only one is really interesting. Don’t get me wrong, Clooney’s portrayal of Whitlock is hilarious, but the character itself is just not that interesting. Whitlock is very one dimensional in both his emotional range and depth; despite having an entire group of (I am obliged to say Spoiler Alert Here) Communists who have kidnapped him. There is the promise that his doofus of a character will develop upon meeting this gathering of men, but sadly it doesn’t go past a few jokes about Brad clearly not getting what Communism really is.
Hobie, on the other hand, damn near steals the show, offering up both a hilarious and intriguing character. The Coen’s subvert our expectations with him by showing how an actor’s star power will overtake their actual acting talent. One of the best scenes in the film comes from Hobie, a normally western-centric actor, tasked with performing in director Laurence Laurentz’s (Ralph Fiennes) intellectual, art house film. Yes, it goes exactly how you’d expect it go and offers the best laugh in all of Hail, Caesar!. Channing Tatum does his best Gene Kelly impersonation, that comes with a hilarious third act twist and Scarlett Johansson is convincing in the role of the brash, single mother actress. The willingness of commitment from each actor with such love and earnest helps make Hail, Caesar! that much funnier as every outlandish scene is done with straight faces.
However, in the end, this is Josh Brolin’s movie and he does a fantastic job with Mannix. In any other film, the big shot executive would have been type-casted as the antagonist, but Eddie is such a loveable character you cannot help but root for him. Over the course of the film, you get to see him really develop and connect to a man just trying to keep the Hollywood ship afloat.That being said some elements like another job offer from a different company and relationship issues with his family never get fully explored. These aspects are only touched upon and have rushed endings that really aren’t satisfying conclusions to his issues. It feels like an afterthought, which is a shame given how generally interesting of a character Mannix actually is.
The make or break I suspect for Hail, Caesar! are the several segments where the movie stops to show us the other films being produced by Columbia Pictures. At various points in the movie, the Coen Brothers show off a wide array of fake film segments that are being developed for Mannix. Ranging from Tatum’s musical number “No Dames” to various segments from the big religious picture Hail, Caesar!. Each part takes up a significant amount of time but never feels truly out of place in terms of the narrative structure. They act almost as windows to see what films back in the 30s, 40s, and 50s were like and are mostly enjoyable. This is coupled with the fantastic cinematography that blends both new age techniques with an old school cinematic style. However, there is a certain point where these movie segments feel like they are padding out the movie’s runtime and certain ones, such as Johansson’s water ballet drag on for far too long.
In general, the plot moves at a brisk, if not predictable pace that only offers one amusing twist at the very end. However, messages about the rise of Communism and the eventual creation of the Hollywood Blacklist are all tackled here. This isn’t just a movie about how wacky the motion picture business is, even though it absolutely is, but the rising fears that flooded through Hollywood during the 1950s. It’s an era and event not many may be familiar with but was detrimental in the movie business. The Coens smartly steer clear of picking sides between capitalism and communism, offering both parties enough time to explain their reasoning behind choosing their certain ideology. Yet, in the end, Hail, Caesar! is a movie for movie lovers. Some of the jokes and banter may go over some audience member’s heads as it doesn’t slow down to explain any of the finer terminologies of filmmaking. Thankfully, this frees the script up to offer hilarious jokes and witty dialogue that keep the film progressing. Hail, Caesar! may not reach the epic status its fictional counterpart does, but it gets damn close to it.
- Acting: With a fantastic lead in Josh Brolin and a phenomenal supporting cast, there are very little hitches when it comes to performances. Alden Ehrenreich dominates every scene he is in, providing much of Hail, Caesar!’s best laughs. Also, if you’re a Jonah Hill fan prepare to be disappointed as the guy is literally in one scene that lasts a whole five minutes, maybe.
- Cinematography: Hail, Caesar! is a love letter to both classic Noir films and the general Golden Age of Hollywood. Shots are beautiful but follow much of the same principles during that time period, which blends nicely with the editing. Sound design is adequate, as well as the score itself but these are nothing to write home about.
- Plot: For a film that is trying to juggle so much, it’s impressive only a few portions fall to the wayside. Some characters do not receive enough development and aspects of Mannix’s personal life get sidelined quite hastily. All in all, the plot does convey an interesting point in the film businesses time that we do not normally see brought to light.
- Characters: While Brad Whitlock may be a bit of a boring one-note character, along with a few of the minor supporting cast members; Hail, Caesar!’s witty dialogue and fun story make it far less noticeable. That being said, the Coen’s clever way of subverting the audience’s thoughts on what a Hollywood executive is like make for a nice change of pace overall.
- Mannix and Hobie
- Blend of New Age and Old
- Hilarious Throughout
- Witty Dialogue
- "No Dames" Segment
- Whitlock is Underwhelming
- Water Ballet Segment
- Mannix Side Stories Rushed
A recent graduate of Arcadia University, Collin MacGregor is a freelance video editor and writer. He covers video games, television, and film for The Nerd Stash. Collin currently is the head film/television reviewer for the site.