Film Review by Clayton Barnett
Hail Caesar! Follows a day in the life of Eddie Mannix, a Hollywood fixer for Capitol Pictures in the 1950s, who cleans up and solves problems for big names and stars in the industry. But when studio star Baird Whitlock disappears, Mannix has to deal with more than just the fix.
How much you love this movie depends on how much you love old movies and the Coen brothers. I dig the classics and the Coens so I was sold for Hail, Caesar!
Ethan and Joel are back to their best screwball comedy ways of (one of my all-time favourites) O Brother, Where Art Thou? mixed in with the old-school Hollywood nods of Barton Fink. Movies about the making of movies can be tricky, but Hail, Caesar! follows in the grand traditions of classics like Sullivan’s Travels and Sunset Boulevard.
Though the Coens can be faithful to a fault here trying to capture the 50’s filmmaking process. There are complete scenes from a variety of genres like westerns, musicals and even synchronised-swimming spectacles, which are great for lovers of ol’ timey movies, but definitely distract from the main plot and leave the film a little unfocused.
For those not particularly schooled up 40’s and 50’s films, directors and their stars - the likes of Gene Kelly, Esther Williams, Kirk Douglas – all the loving references might be a bit much.
Thankfully the Coen regulars are in fine form, George Clooney is back to his blundering O Brother best and Josh Brolin’s adds layers to the movie fix-it man and his crisis of faith. Newcomer Alden Ehrenreich (Stoker) makes a star turn as wholesome cowboy Hobie Doyle.
And just like any Coen pic there are some priceless scene-stealers. Ralph Fiennes is delightful as Brit director Laurence Laurentz, Frances McDormand and Jonah Hill might only have a scene each but both are memorable. Though it’s Channing Tatum – as the Gene Kelly inspired Burt Gurney – who is comedy gold and criminally underutilised.
Hail, Caesar! might be a bit much for those who don’t get all the nods to nostalgic films, but it’s still classic Coen screwball fun with a cracking cast.
Releases: 3rd March 2016
Rating: PG – Contains coarse language
Duration: 106 minutes
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill, Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Christopher Lambert, Dolph Lundgren, Frances McDormand, Alex Karpovsky, David Krumholtz, Clancy Brown
Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen (Fargo, The Big Lebowski)
George Clooney was actually slapped by Josh Brolin several times. His reaction shown in the film was genuine.
The fictional film studio "Capitol Pictures" previously appeared in Barton Fink (1991), another Los Angeles period film from the Coen Brothers.
This film will mark Frances McDormand's eighth collaboration with the Coen brothers. Frances is also the wife of Joel Coen.
The first film that cinematographer Roger Deakins has shot for directors Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, and on 35mm film, since True Grit (2010). He had previously become an advocate of shooting digitally, and used Arri Alexa cameras on his next five films, but switched back to film for this because the Coens dislike digital cameras and thought that shooting on film suited a period piece set in 1950's Hollywood.
Carlotta Valdes, Hobie Doyle's date, is also the name of a mysterious character from the 1800s in Vertigo (1958).
The Lockheed recruiter tells Eddie the Bikini Atoll test occurred 3 weeks earlier, which places the movie in March 1954.