Hail, Caesar! follows Josh Brolin who is a Hollywood “fixer” as he attempts to keep an array of actors and film-people in line after Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), the star of a Roman epic in production goes missing.
Since Hail, Caesar! is a Coen brothers film, one should presumably expect some laughs and there are laughs although not as many as I would like. Hail, Caesar! isn’t incredibly funny as a whole and the comedy does seem to stay hidden for the most latter part of the film but there are a few scenes which are hilarious.
Also expected of a Coen brothers film is dialogue with a perfect rhythm, which again this film delivers on. The Coen brothers also seem to be really good at making very watchable films which Hail, Caesar! exceeds tremendously at proving. I would not object to seeing it again. However it’s watchability doesn’t exactly come from a great sense of comedy as much as it does a lack of any conflict.
Hail, Caesar! is an easy-to-watch film because there is nothing making it hard. The characters are never in any danger and if they were, I wouldn’t notice due to the lack of development which comes from the overcrowding. Hail, Caesar! has more characters than it can handle and I’m going to go through all of the different mini-stories to prove my point…
Josh Brolin plays the main character in Hail, Caesar! and is also the loose spider’s web that ties every character together by chance meeting. He is great as the “fixer” and protagonist if only the character wasn’t pulled down by the weight of so many other stories. He’s also given a character choice (the choice of switching jobs for a lesser good but a higher paycheque) which could’ve been the B story but it became the M or N story.
George Clooney plays Baird Whitlock, the main actor in the fictional Christ film being shot in Hail, Caesar! with the same name. The character had a lot of potential being the fumbling star everyone looks up to and almost anyone can manipulate. His time on screen is funny except the time is limited.
Alden Ehrenreich gives instantly the best performance in the film. He plays a western star pulled into a posh British dress film directed by the confusingly titled Lawrence Laurentz who spends a whole scene teaching him one line. He plays the role with incredible ease and an over-the-top accent that will most certainly be remembered.
And Ralph Fiennes (who plays the aforementioned Lawrence) is also excellent. He plays the picky director as if he’s still in The Grand Budapest Hotel and it’s absolutely brilliant. It’s a shame he’s on screen for only two scenes.
I feel Jonah Hill was very out of place as was Scarlett Johansson. Scarlett is on screen for two scenes, one of which she shares with Jonah. And that scene is Jonah’s one and only scene. This waste of two great actors would be acceptable only if they provided something important to the story and/or were funny. Sadly, these scenes fall into neither category.
Speaking of a waste of good talent, Frances McDormand is also in only one scene. Frances McDormand. One scene. Why?
Tilda Swinton plays two twin journalists who are bugging Josh Brolin about a story they want to run involving George Clooney’s character and again, it adds nothing to the story. I know there was the intention that it would be funny having Swinton play twins who want the same thing yet hate each other but I just didn’t find it funny.
Channing Tatum has two scenes in the film, one of which is a Gene Kelly-esque dance sequence that was shown partially in the trailer and I have to say that the full scene in the film is very enjoyable. The Coen brothers somehow managed to match the whimsical cheekiness of those films in the Golden Age with an equally uplifting scene in this film.
Getting away from the cast, Hail, Caesar! is a brilliant love letter to the Golden Age of cinema. Everything from the mini-movies within Hail, Caesar!, to the characters that are spoofs of obvious real life movie stars, to the colour palette just screams “Golden Age”.
Hail, Caesar! is far from being the Coen brothers best work and it has many issues regarding the unnecessary overflow of characters that add zero plot or comedy. The lack of any identifiable stakes was also quite an issue for me but at its core, Hail, Caesar! is an enjoyable and very easy-to-watch homage to the Golden Age of cinema.
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