Conflict is the primary force which underlies all drama. There is a reason we watch what we do, whether that be romance, action, or thriller, and not films about normal families going to work or eating dinner while discussing their day. Hail, Caesar!, however, is a film by the Coen Brothers, and if there is anything that can be said about the Coens, it’s that they love playing around with convention, and this time that convention is skirting around having conflict as the factor that engages us to watch a movie.
Josh Brolin stars in Hail, Caesar! as Eddie Mannix, studio fixer for Capitol Pictures. The movie follows a few days at work for Mannix starting with the day that movie star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) disappears from the set of Hail, Caesar!, one of the many films being shot on the Capitol Pictures lot. Things get more complicated for Mannix as more stars, all played by real life Hollywood elite, have issues he has to deal with and a pair of twin sister reporters, both played by Tilda Swinton, start poking around the set, but when you get right down to it, nothing in the film isn’t easily fixed with little more than a conversation and a figurative wave of the hand.
What Hail, Caesar! really is, is an homage to late ’40’s/early ’50’s Hollywood done Coen Brothers style. The real joy to be had here doesn’t lie in the plot, but in the sideshows. There are multiple movies within a movie going on here, this is where we get to see the majority of the film’s stars, and each glimpse into them we get allows the Coen Btothers to give their own take on a 50s version of that genre, some of which haven’t been done since the 50s, in their own inimitable style.
As is standard for the Coens, there is more going on here than meets the eye. This is one of their lighter, fluffier films, but they still have quite a bit to say about the culture of Hollywood and the paradoxical importance of escapism, and of course there are the wonderful, quirky Coen visuals and characterizations on display here that are a joy to experience even in their least of efforts.
Hail, Caesar! does boast quite the list of Hollywood A-listers. In addition to those mentioned earlier, we also have Ralph Feinnes, Scarlett Johannson, Frances McDormand, Jonah Hill, and Channing Tatum all making appearances. But, that’s all they really are, are appearances. The most scenes any of these actors appear in is a whopping two, and you get to see nearly the entire performance of one of these stars, I won’t give away which, in the movie’s trailer. Still, they do all manage to steal the scene they are in, which I think is exactly the point to having them appear, and Channing Tatum’s bit in particular was the highlight of the film.
The biggest surprise of Hail, Caesar! was the performance of newcomer, well not total newcomer, he’s been in a few small films, Alden Ehreinreich as Hobie Doyle, a singing cowboy and real country boy forced into a role as a depressed dilettante. He’s hilarious, sympathetic, and, I hope it’s not too strange for me to say about another man, absolutely adorable in his role. He fits very well into the Coen Brothers niche and I truly can’t wait to see more from him in the future.
If you are neither a fan of 50s cinema nor of the Coen’s filmography, you have absolutely no reason to check out Hail, Caesar!, there simply will be nothing of interest to you here. However, if either of those things catches your fancy there’s quite a bit to enjoy here, even if it’s really more about the side dishes than the main course. It’s a lesser Coen film, but it’s still most definitely all Coen.
Rating: 6.4 out of 10