Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Cast: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson
George Clooney a drugged up Roman soldier? Scarlett Johansson a lairy mermaid? Channing Tatum tap dancing in a tight, white, sailor boy outfit? The latest Coen Brothers’ takes audiences on a joyous, star-filled romp through the Golden Age of Hollywood. Part brilliant celebration, part gleeful mockery and highly self-referential, Hail, Caesar! keeps things light and is at its’ core a love poem to the bizarre absurdities of the film industry. Josh Brolins’ Eddie Mannix is the eye of the storm as head fixer for Capitol Pictures, fictional studio previously seen in the Coens’ Barton Fink (the real Eddie Mannix was a fixer for MGM). We move through a day in his life battling a stream of crises; pregnant starlets, risqué photoshoots, kidnapped actors and a load of secret Communist screenwriters abound.
But none of these are really the focus of the film as it meanders casually through the dream factory, sometimes pausing for a mere glance and other times settling in to watch the show. The most memorable scenes are those that seem side fare; a religious focus group, McDormands’ comically dark turn as editor C.C. Calhoun, and a wickedly painful elocution exercise between Ehrenreichs’ excellent Hobie Doyle and Fiennes’ Laurence Laurents (in another illustration of Fiennes as surprise comic powerhouse, following on from last month’s A Bigger Splash). It can become frustrating that these discursions are left incomplete, but nevertheless Hail Caesar! is eminently, giddily watchable. Perhaps my mate summarised it best when as the credits rolled and the lights came up she turned to me and said, “well, that was nice and weird”.
Originally published in Crack Magazine