Review 35: Hail, Caesar! (2016)
The first time I saw a trailer for Hail, Caesar! I was sold on the premise, the cast, and the writer/director pairing of the Coen brothers. Doug Benson, however, made a valid point when he noted that with the names behind this film coming out in February is a bit odd. Nonetheless, I ventured out to see Hail, Caesar!, which has 79% on Rotten Tomatoes, with hope in my heart.
Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is a Hollywood fixer for Capitol Pictures that is making a huge film called Hail, Caesar. Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) is starring in the film when he is the victim of a kidnapping. It falls on Mannix to not only recover the star so the film can be made, but also keep it out of the papers all while juggling the other talents of Capitol Pictures all in the name of a day’s work. The plot is a little more complex than the summary, but I definitely want to avoid spoilers on a brand new film.
As per usually, a Coen film has great cinematography, great dialogue, and fantastic acting. Brolin’s character straddles the line between thug and businessman making him a very interesting character. His performance is really strong and definitely shines above the star-studded cast. I’ve seen a lot of Brolin this week as he has been a part of both True Grit and No Country for Old Men, but I think this may be the best use of his talents by the Coens.
I really love that this film pays homage to the studios of the 50’s, and in some ways pokes fun at the structure of the Hollywood studio. There is a great musical number, the western, the epic, the aquatic picture, and the dry, British drama. All look amazing and the aspect ratio changes depending on how the audience is seeing the film inside the film. The musical is by far my favorite of these mini-films as Channing Tatum seems to channel Bing Crosby in his performance…well, it at least reminded me of a White Christmas type of musical number.
The Coens love a period piece and they are great at executing it. The costuming and the sets are fantastic and the cinematography is great. It always impresses me that they choose to set their movies in such distinctive times with specific elements that require quite a bit.
The story isn’t really as clear as the trailer makes it out to be. I found that the people in the theater with me weren’t as impressed by the film as I was, and I think that was a big part of it. It’s not a bad story, but it’s really more of a character study or an institutional study of the film industry. This film seems like it is not for the everyman, but more for the avid film lover.
Too much talent and not enough time. This film is over flooded and it seems unnecessary and waters the story down a bit. This proves less true after seeking out the plot of the film. However, it requires really questioning “what did the Coens want me to take away from this film,” which goes back to the first complaint. A lot of the names in the trailer have small parts and it seems the film could have been better had they not been in the film at all. Not that anyone gave a bad performance, it was just a bit convoluted.
The Coen Brothers know how to make a great film, but this one falls just a bit short of greatness. The film has some great elements and I definitely enjoyed it more than the people I shared the theater with, but it definitely isn’t as strong as No Country for Old Men or Barton Fink. Brolin did shine and there were a few laughs, but the film relies on the audience’s interest in the film industry of the 1950’s and that may not appeal to that many people. Luckily for me, I love seeing any insight into this industry, another observation about myself I’ve learned, so I give Hail, Caesar! 7 out of 10 movie stars!