HAIL, CAESAR! fails to seize your interests long term
Joel and Ethan Coen have been directing, writing and/or producing movies for over thirty years. During that span audiences and critics often have had varied opinions about their works, sometimes they’re on the same page while others they couldn’t be further apart. I won’t go as far as to suggest that the Coen brothers are an acquired taste but I will say that their style isn’t for everyone. Their latest offering is Hail, Caesar!, an ensemble comedy that pokes a little fun at movie industry ridiculousness back in the 1950s. It has many big names attached as per many of the Coens previous films so interests will be piqued.
Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is the man in Hollywood that gets things done, at least that’s the case for the movie studio he works for. Whenever there’s anything that goes on, whether it’s protecting the integrity of one of the studio’s prize actors or finding actors to quickly fill other positions of need, he’s the guy that makes those things happen. One of the studio’s biggest stars, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), turns up missing while in the process of filming the final scenes of a new film. It’s up to Eddie to get to the bottom of this mystery while not letting on to the press that something’s gone afoul.
If it’s possible for something to feel both connected and disconnected at the same time, it’s Hail, Caesar!. The story is all over the place with different characters and different subplots sprawled out in every direction. In that respect, the insanity of what working on a studio lot was like in the 1950s and probably even today to some degree, is captured in great detail. If you like your stories to flow freely and evenly you might want to skip it. The one thing I’ve learned over the years about movies as told through the eyes of Joel and Ethan Coen is that their rollercoaster rides don’t stay on any one track, they’re more like extreme bumper cars hitting us from all sides.
The list of known actors featured in Hail, Caesar! is both long and impressive. The one person that gets the lion’s share of screen time is Josh Brolin. He is good in his all go, no show approach to the daily circus that comes with his job. Aside from George Clooney, some other actors of note are Channing Tatum, Scarlett Johansson, Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Alden Ehrenreich and Jonah Hill. And these are literally just SOME of the faces you’ll recognize while watching the movie. It’s tough to really grade the performances because many of these actors are playing the role of actors and that just starts to make your brain hurt if you think about it too much. I’m crying paradoxical foul here and pleading The Fifth.
There are moments of brief hilarity, others provide a few chuckles. Mostly though, the style of comedy used gets old real quick. Hail, Caesar! has the authentic silver screen feel to it but nostalgia can only take things so far. The majority of critics will most likely give this a decent to good grade. Fans of previous Coen brothers works will find the good in it as well. As for the general public, many will see this as an act of Intolerable Cruelty (see what I did there Coen brothers fans). My feelings are that it failed to capture my interests and I found myself glancing at my watch more than normal. My suggestion to most would be to just skip it and don’t be tempted by the hilarious and quirky commercials running on TV.