“Squint against the grandeur!”
Directed by: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Starring: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Channing Tatum
Synopsis: When doofus mega-star actor Baird Whitlock is kidnapped by communists, it’s up to producer and problem solver Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) to track him down, whilst keeping the news of his disappearance away from the prying eyes of the press, and spinning the plates of multiple Hollywood productions.
Expectedly for a Coen Brothers film, Hail, Caesar! is a quirky sort of affair. They really hit the charm offensive with this one, giving it charisma to burn. 1950s Hollywood is vibrant and colourful – quite the beauty to behold as Brolin’s Eddie Mannix flits from set to set on the Capitol Pictures studio lot, fixing problems as they arise. With each set visit we’re given wonderfully crafted standalone glimpses behind the scenes of a number of films. We go swimming with Scarlett Johansson, dancing with Channing Tatum, we master the English language with Alden Ehrenreich and Ralph Fiennes, and step back into ancient Rome with George Clooney.
These individual moments, whilst being a blast, also highlight the biggest issues. If you strip away these “films within a film”, it exposes the actual core of Hail, Caesar! as being fairly lightweight. Not only this, but quite self-indulgent, and certainly disjointed. Not to take anything away from the actors involved in these scenes though, in particular Ehrenreich and Fiennes who are comfortable highlights, but due to the very nature of the structure their screen time is minimal. “Straight man” Brolin ends up front and centre, and whilst he’s decent, Mannix is just not as enjoyable to watch as his fellow cast of characters.
No, it’s not classic Coen Brothers. But even when not at their best, they’re still pretty darned good. The film has issues, it may be a little flimsy, but it’s also funny and likeable. Would that it were so simple for other filmmakers to bring so much charm to their films.
Rating (out of 5):