Alden Ehrenreich, Baird Whitlock, Channing Tatum, Cinema, Eddie Mannix, Ethan Coen, Fargo, Film, George Clooney, Hail Caesar!, Hobie Doyle, Hollywood, Joel Coen, Jonah Hill, Josh Brolin, Movie Review, No Country For Old Men, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, The Coen Brothers, Tilda Swinton
“Hail, Caesar!” is an American comedy which was written, produced, and directed by the Coen Brothers (“Fargo” & “No Country For Old Men”). It follows Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), the head of production at Capitol Pictures, as he attempts to keep the eccentric actors attached to the studio’s films in check. The title, “Hail, Caesar!”, relates to the title of a film which is being made within the film; one which keeps Mannix busy as its star (Baird Whitlock played by George Clooney) goes missing and is later found to have been kidnapped.
“Hail, Caesar!” casts its eye on the Hollywood film industry back in the 1950’s, and it also takes a comedic look at the Red Scare. The cast is impressive, as Scarlett Johansson plays an unmarried actress with a baby on the way, Tilda Swinton plays a pair of twin sisters who also happen to be rivalling gossip columnists, and Ralph Fiennes plays a posh director struggling with the limitations of his leading man. There’s also a short appearance from Channing Tatum, who shows once again that his comedic timing is spot-on, and a hilarious performance from Alden Ehrenreich as Hobie Doyle (the aforementioned leading man with limitations).
These peculiar characters are the focus of the film, as we see Eddie Mannix attempt to fix everyone’s problems and keep their names out of the press. There’s no one story which propels the movie forward, despite the fact that the marketing surrounding the film portrays Whitlock’s kidnapping to be the main focus. Instead, we watch on as crazy people do crazy things, which is entertaining even if it isn’t particularly poignant.
The funny thing about Whitlock’s kidnapping is that although it is an important aspect of the film, it doesn’t really result in anything. The problems it causes for Mannix are minimal at best, because the ransom is insignificant to the studio and the film can go on without him as long as he’s back for the final scene, and it didn’t actually lead to anything for the kidnappers. Whitlock’s communist captors may get their ransom, but they never get to use the money, meaning that they literally achieved nothing by kidnapping the star.
This futility is a common theme of “Hail, Caesar!”, as nothing that happens over the course of the film has any significant consequences, and the audience is left wondering what the point of the whole thing was once they leave the theatre. This fact will leave some audience members feeling dejected on their journey home, as they feel that their time has been wasted, but for me it was the reason that I enjoyed the movie.
The movie is all about the film industry, and it shows that behind all the glitz and the glamour these people are flawed and ultimately have nothing of worth to say. “Hail, Caesar!” plays on that; there’s nothing meaningful about it, and it doesn’t try to portray itself as overly intelligent, it’s just a picture to entertain the masses for 90 minutes – just like the films within the film.
In essence, it’s a film which portrays itself as attempting to please the masses in order to make a veiled critique on films which do that very thing. It tries to appear pointless in order to poke fun at the fact that a lot of films are only entertaining on a base level, which I think makes it smart… maybe? It’s a strange watch, but I think I liked it.
I don’t feel that this movie is particularly exceptional, but the only real issue I have with it is the ending. Whilst the final scene fit with the rest of the movie (because it fizzled out without any real oomph) I would’ve preferred it to end when Whitlock forgot his line. This was a funny scene and would’ve been a perfect end to the movie as it had played out up until that point. I understand that the film was actually about Mannix and that it needed to wrap up his story, but this could’ve been done before the Whitlock scene.
“Hail, Caesar!” is a decent film. The Coen Brothers are fantastic and they know how to make a polished picture, but I feel that this film’s story will put a few people off. It isn’t what I would call a focused movie, and at times it can feel like there’s not a lot of purpose to the events that are happening on screen. Still, I think that this is intentional, and regardless of everything else “Hail, Caesar!” is as charming as it is comical.