The Coen brothers are back, this time with a film as epic in nature as in name.
‘Hail, Caesar!’ set in 1950’s Hollywood has everything you want and expect in a period piece; studio owned movie stars, meddling journalists, communist fuelled kidnappings and a Navy uniform clad Channing Tatum tap dancing.
The film follows Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), an executive at fictitious Capital Studios (a clever tie in to the discontent communist screenwriters who explain the injustices of world to a kidnapped George Clooney), somewhat loosely based on the real life MGM employee of the same name. The film follows the ‘fixer’ for just over 24 hours, as we watch him concoct a plan for the unmarried pregnant Deanna Morgan (Scarlett Johansson), transitions Western star Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) into a delicate and dialect driven drama piece, subdue rival twin reporters Thora and Thessaly Thacker (Tilda Swinton), track down the kidnapped Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) all the while seeing to the development of the epic blockbuster and movie within the movie Hail, Caesar!
The audience bonds with Mannix as he navigates the struggles of the studio, considers a more ‘adult’ job in the aviation industry and feebly attempts to quit smoking. Concern for Mannix’s sleeping habits aside, the pace of the film allows for each subplot to be explored, bringing them all together at the end of the film in a neat little package, never allowing the audience to feel any of their time was wasted.
The star studded cast bring to life a fantasy we didn’t even know we were waiting for. In the modern age of film there have always been connotations surrounding ‘Old Hollywood’ both positive and negative that spark an artificial nostalgia in movie lovers who never experienced the decade. The glamour and prestige is paired with scandal and abuse (both psychical and emotional, though minor) and the power that studios had over individual stars. It’s hard to tell who is at the beck and call of the other. The willingness of executives to pay ransom no questions asked is countered by a star’s willingness to ‘change their image’ or publicly pursue romantic relationships without hesitation. The relationship seemingly placing the Coen brothers on the fence in relation to commenting on the industry.
The quirky nature of the film allows the stereotypes and social concerns of 1950’s Hollywood to be showcased in an almost satirical way. While the story lines do loosely follow the real life happenings of E. J Mannix and the nature of the industry is unlike films such as Trumbo (2015) which takes an earnest look at the era, Hail, Caesar! allows the audience a look into the real life exploits of the time without diminishing allure and intrigue of classic Hollywood.
The film very cleverly mixes the absurd with reality, weaving in and out of sets, scenes from the in movie movies and a divine subplot, a conversation about the nature of Christ between religious figureheads brought into the studio to give their film the go ahead personified in Brolin’s character and and motivations (is he to the studio what Jesus was to humanity?) (Did the film just get way deeper than we expected?)
Performance wise it was doubtful that the any of the prestigious cast would fall short, it is however almost surprising that among the big names the performance of Alden Ehrenreich (Blue Jasmine) was the potential stand out. While Tatum continues to please in his new found love for comedy, ScarJo revisits our favourite unpolished Brooklyn accent and Clooney, Swinton, Hill, Gambon and Fiennes are appropriately and expectedly brilliant, it is the relatively unknown actor that works his way into our hearts, just as his character does in the movie (talk about life imitating art).
Meta comparisons aside Hail, Caesar! is just another notch under the ridiculously heavy belt of Ethan and Joel Coen. A captivatingly colourful look into the bizarre world, combining heart, fact and mischief into a very palateable 106 minutes.
Take a look at the trailer below, but be sure to check it out in cinemas because who doesn’t want to watch our biggest actors acting like other actors who were based on real actors but are actually fictional actors. Confused? Never mind, just sit back, relax and Hail! The Coen brothers.