WRITTEN BY: SCOTT BROWN | STAFF WRITER
Universal Studios’ “Hail, Caesar!” is a comedy set in the early 1950s that centers on Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), a Hollywood “fixer,” and his struggle to have his star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) returned without press cover- age after he has been kidnapped.
Throughout the film, he also has to deal with several smaller issues, such as the pregnancy of starlet DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson), the readjustment of Hobie Doyle’s image (Alden Ehrenreich) from cowboy to dramatic actor, and having to stop twin gossip columnists (Tilda Swinton) from printing two different stories about Whitlock. Hail, Caesar! is written and directed by Ethan and Joel Coen.
This film comes across as the Coen Brothers’ love letter to the Golden age of Hollywood, which took place during the late 1940s and early 1950s. This occurs through the film’s use of scenes from movies of this age. Those scenes are some of the most entertaining in the movie because of that obvious love, but they are also some of the movie’s biggest issues, which I will touch upon later.
This love for the movie’s source material is shown throughout the film in a myriad of ways, the main way being the incredible cinematography by Roger Deakins who is able to make the scenes being filmed feel like the cinematography that was predominantly the style during Hollywood’s Golden Age. His shots are beautiful and perfect for the tone that the Coen’s were going for.
The acting throughout is also magnificent. Scarlett Johansson, even with her smaller role, was entirely believable as a starlet of the 1950s. Her character even has a highly believable New York accent.
George Clooney, who I am admittedly not a fan of, also was believable as the dim-witted star of a Roman epic about the crucifixion of Jesus. The real stand-outs, though, were Josh Brolin and Alden Ehrenreich. Brolin brings humanity to his character by conveying the emotional toll the man’s job requires despite how much he enjoys it, but while also showing that he enjoys what he does at the same time. Ehrenreich, on the other hand, brings to life a character who is dedicated to the roles he is given, as well as free of the corruption that characterizes the world he works in.
Ultimately, the real stars of the movie are the Coen brothers, simply by their directing abilities. The film is similar to Fargo, another Coen Brothers’ film, in several aspects; there are multiple storylines, an older main character trying to handle the world around them, and a quirkiness that is not found in most movies.
Additionally, the film features several visual gags that contribute to its hilarity. The funniest of these was one referring to spaghetti westerns; however, these are not the best parts of the Coen’s style choices for the movie. The movies- within-a-movie scenes were all really fun to watch, and each of these was able to create the feel of standing on a sound- stage during this time in Hollywood his- tory.
Although the film and its structure were ultimately enjoyable, they are also my biggest gripes with the film. While the scenes depicting the movies-within- a-movie are fun, the narrative seems as if it was created to lead to these scenes; they seem to serve no purpose to the main narrative that is being told. These scenes cause the narrative to feel stunted, and in one scene it even comes to a complete halt because of them. The narrative becomes second-fiddle during these scenes and for around 5-10 minutes during each of these scenes, nothing of real importance about the main story occurs.
Overall, this movie is enjoyable de- spite the jumble of its narrative, as well as its unsatisfying ending, as in; it makes pretty much no sense whatsoever. I would recommend this movie for any- one looking for a fun movie see, especially if you are interested in the Golden Age of Hollywood and want to see beautiful imagery throughout.
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