Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
Country: USA / UK
One way or the other, the Coen Brothers always please me with their deadpan humor, ironic posture, and diverting stories. Their brand new comedy, “Hail Caesar!”, is a crafty homage to the old Hollywood, aiming loud and clear at the film industry, and employing both subdued and provocative tactics. It’s a movie about old movies, but gladly, it didn’t feel outdated, even if infused with a few known subversive presences.
The film, set in the 50’s, is designed with a luminous cinematography, makes use of an off-screen narrator, and is packed with accurate period details, also counting on a glorious cast to impel the Coens’ ideas. The actors' precise performances and visible glee were fundamental to achieve the liveliness that the directors much appreciate and love to spread on the screen.
Abdicating of the opening credits, the brothers move swiftly into action, presenting Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), a temperamental executive who works as a ‘fixer’ at the Capitol Pictures (remember “Barton Fink”?), in one of his frequent confessions at the local church. Mannix is a super-busy man who shows moral concerns about his behaviors.
In another front, the celebrated actor, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), known as a womanizer and partygoer, plays a Roman Army’s high-ranked soldier in the studio’s major production ‘Hail, Caesar!’. The little mystery in the film comes from Whitlock’s abduction (an unthreatening one) by a group of unsatisfied Hollywood screenwriters who are also fanatics of the Russian communist party. Another of their staunch comrades is the actor, Burt Gurney (Channing Tatum), performer of a great musical number in which he sings and dances in a bar, together with his fellow sailors.
Mannix is also having a hard time, not only with the Thackers (the majestic Tilda Swinton), two twin sisters and viper columnists who are constantly looking for gossips related to the celebrities, but also with Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich), an acrobat cowboy whose horse-opera skills are not extended to the drama genre. The renowned director, Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes), who’s involved in a sexual scandal and can’t decide how he wants to be called, categorically complains about the cowboy, forced by the studio management to incorporate the cast of the director's new film. On the other hand, Scarlett Johansson’s character, an agile mermaid, wasn't so perfect and could have been easily discarded.
More comedic than dramatic, “Hail, Caesar!” is a movie that doesn’t require multiple viewings. However, not everybody is going to understand its sly undertones or feel engaged in the process. While some of its sequences are hilarious, some others miss the target, in a story that oscillates between enthralling and zany. The episodes are wrapped in a relentless effervescence, which in some cases feels only apparent. Notwithstanding, this prankish exercise responded well to my expectations, guiding the viewers throughout a Hollywood studio in order to observe its occupants and procedures. It might not be the Coens’ funniest or most satisfying flick, but I can assure you it’s a seductive one.