Josh Brolin George Clooney Alden Ehrenreich Ralph Fiennes Tilda Swinton Frances McDormand Scarlett Johansson Channing Tatum
When the Coen Brothers are having fun, we’re having fun. And I can just imagine how the whole crew of Hail Caesar! had loads of good times making this film. As a matter of fact, Roger Deakins, the DP, mentioned that in an interview. The Coens let their imaginations run wild here, and managed to successfully throw in all kinds of references to movies (mostly), philosophy, politics, history, and American culture, spoofing all.
The central figure is the beleaguered “fixer” at Capitol Pictures in Hollywood, Eddie Mannix (Brolin), whose long days are spent putting out fires on the multiple sets of films like Hail Caesar!, On Wings as Eagles, Merrily We Dance, and Lazy Ole Moon (Coens came up with the titles, of course). In addition, Mannix tries hard to pay attention to his family, consider a lucrative offer, and go to Catholic confession frequently.
One of his dilemmas now is that his most famous star, Baird Whitlock (Clooney), has gone missing. A little sleuthing and a phone call reveals that Baird has been kidnapped and the culprits are asking for $100K ransom money. This is not much of a problem—demonstrating how cash was like play money in Hollywood in the ‘50s—but who is responsible is a testament to the Coens’ wit and fancy in even dreaming it up, but also in its touching a bit on reality. It’s a motley crew of disgruntled writers and left-leaning professors in a “study group” (I won’t say more). When the actor comes to after being drugged and learns of the plot, he asks to have a share of the spoils, but the professors quickly say that that would be unethical; ransom money is not for the victim!
I thought Brolin and Clooney would be stand-outs, and Brolin is a perfect fit for his part; however, as good an actor as Clooney is, it was difficult to see his character without seeing the Clooney persona, despite his always being in ancient Roman garb. A surprising standout is the aw-shucks Southern cowboy played by Alden Ehrenreich as Hobie Doyle. Hobie can stand on his head while riding a galloping horse, do lasso tricks, and sing. He has a little trouble with the verbal part of acting, but with a little coaching, his timing in saying, “It’s…complicated” is perfect. And it turns out that he is much smarter than he sounds, but always sincere and honest.
The film is more like a revue with little vignettes, always light and entertaining and lovely to look at. Shining in their parts are Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Channing Tatum, Ralph Fiennes, and Jonah Hill.
With the Coens, Cinematographer Roger Deakins and Composer Composer Carter Burwell round out this supremely talented filmmaking team
Sit back, chuckle, wonder, and be entertained in Hail, Caesar!
Grade: A By Donna R. Copeland