Hail, Caesar! (2016)
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It felt like a strung together series of little set pieces that didn't hang together as a whole. I won't mention the plot since there was virtually none and what there was was fairly flat and unimportant.
Normally the Brothers can overcome a weak plot (although strong plot-lines have driven several of their movies) with strong quirky performances and memorable cinematography.
Sadly, the dialog lacked snap, the film didn't pop off the screen looks wise, given that it's a period piece, and with such a strong cast, everyone looked tired - almost as if they had come in to film their parts after getting off their day jobs and they were just doing a favor to the Coen's.
Overall I've seen much worse but when you go to a Coen Brothers film, you just expect much more.
Neil Simon was given script advice once that all the characters have to meet in the play AT LEAST ONCE. Here, none meet at all. They have the subplot and that is it. Ending was weak too. Meh.
Here's what it *is*: the film version of RADIO DAYS.
Just like Allen made a loving pastiche of radio at its height in the 1940s, so have the Coens done for film at the tail end of its Silver Screen era, when studios manipulated its contract players and worked the media to prevent the "unfortunate" aspects from being revealed to an audience that just wanted escapism fantasy. Josh Brolin is the tightly-wound studio "head of physical production", an enforcer who's being seduced by a potential job with Lockheed to oversee work on the atom bomb. Before he can come to a decision about whether or not take it, he has to deal with the sudden disappearance of the slightly disconnected-from-reality George Clooney (who looks like he's having a blast in this, especially in the final scene of his big budget sword-and-sandel Jesus epic). Along the way, we see the Coens' take on Esther Williams, Carmen Miranda, Gene Kelly, and a host of other stars from the era...
... and this is what makes the film so damn much fun. It's not about the story, it's about how the Coens are celebrating the films we have perhaps idealized a bit too much: Esther Williams' underwater ballets and Gene Kelly in NYC for 24 hours and Gary Cooper trying to play it in a toney, high-class period drama. There are so many references to the great films of the day that if you blink, you'll miss a few — they follow fast and furious and sometimes with little more than a sly wink. If you are an old time movie buff, you will love this film to tiny little bits. If not... well, you probably wont enjoy it all that much.
But then the Coens probably didn't make it for you, did they...
That being said, I think they should have brought more story to this effort. The production values, the sets, the props, the overall look, and dialog are just about as close to perfect as human beings can get. Every scene is just about flawless. And there's lots of chuckles and wonderful parodies of old time Hollywood films. The Esther Williams/synchronized swimming bit and the Gene Kellyesque barroom dance number were just magic. You'd swear Busby Berkeley was reincarnated for the choreography. But that's what you get for the price of admission. The little bit of story is hardly relevant to the rest of the film. Indeed, George Clooney's role could have been trimmed out in editing and the film would have been none the worse for wear.
So, go expecting a few really well-done parodies of old Hollywood musicals and a lot of inside jokes about Tinseltown gossip and fabulous production values. Just don't expect any story, cause there just ain't any.
I am surprised at the number of reviewers describing this film as a shallow and meaningless picture as, for me, Hail Caesar is both a very coherent and exceptionally valid critique of the influence of money on the art of film-making. Perhaps this is because I have significant problems with being bombarded by endless remakes and superhero films which offer nothing constructive beyond nostalgia, dreams and escape. Hail Caesar's clear message is that Hollywood both seeks to control its actors, the world around it, and the views of its consumers.
But then, is not my enjoyment of such a clever and well-thought out critique of Hollywood not both a negation (the dialectic!)of the film's central message and proof that meaningful and clever films are still being made (though perhaps the relatively poor box office takings and negative reviews are still proof)? These ambiguities are reflected in the film itself and any critical film-goer. The Coen's clearly profit from and are products of a Hollywood they lay bare in this film. Whats more, the tenderness and love they have for Hollywood is evident throughout the picture. This love/hate relationship is something which resonates with me strongly as I spend hours condemning blockbuster hits to those around me whilst spending my weekends going to watch blockbuster films.
Perhaps the negativity felt toward this film is on it being miss-sold (that's capitalism for you) as an uproariously funny slapstick film. It is far from laugh out loud funny and has a more consistently playful and sardonic tone. The film follows a day in the life of the 'fixer' Eddie Mannix who enforces the will of his never seen higher power (the executives.) As you follow his travels you are transported around the products of Hollywood (I am not overly familiar with the films they are critiquing) and experience the playful but ultimately meaningless creation of the major Hollywood staples of the time.
The story follows the kidnapping of the star of the companies big blockbuster - Hail Caesar. The depiction of Jesus Christs' life within the film is itself a reflection of Hollywood's attempts to subsume religion to its own power. In one excellent scene the representatives of the major religions sit slavishly before their master (Eddie Mannix) whilst engaging in some irrelevant theology but all ultimately agreeing that the motion picture is fine.
The communists who capture Hail Caesar's star are then introduced into the story. The pastiche of a bunch of old men in woolly jumpers sitting round and analysing the role of films within society and their own position as film-makers reflects perfectly the failure of Frankfurt School Marxist intellectuals (like Marcuse) who failed to connect with the masses. This is despite their cunning attempts to smuggle the communist message into Hollywood (a playful reference to the absurd McCarthyite hunt of the 1950s) and indeed their own success at converting the sincere star of Hail Caesar. The communist message is eloquently upheld by the star (perhaps it is powerful) who literally explains it to Mannix the enforcer who responds by slapping him down. Mannix himself is well aware of Hollywood's message and power as is shown by his decision to stick with Hollywood despite the offer of work from an aviation company involved in producing the H-bomb (showing that film and the ability to communicate dreams can be more powerful than fear.)
The film end's with the star building up a powerful narrative as he addresses Christ on the cross before stumbling into incoherence. This is the perfect metaphor for a film industry which produces plenty of verbose hype but communicates little of substance to its consumer (a la the Revenant!) Style over substance.
The negation of religion by film is then completed with Eddie Mannix walking off into the light and the film lingering on the Christian imagery of a Hollywood who now rules the minds of the masses.
Maybe I read too much into it but I thought this film was stunning, its many sardonic and eclectic scenes keep popping into my mind and I have been mulling over the film ever since. Maybe I shall follow this fare with a superhero film to escape into!
It's a shame the review was so positive, because it made my disappointment that much greater.
There is very little in this movie that is funny. (The audience I saw it with almost never laughed.) Most of the parodies are simplistic and flat and don't say anything clever about the subjects they are lampooning.
Take the extended water ballet sequence that is meant as a send-up of Esther Williams movies. The sequence itself looks like a poor man's version of one of the numbers in *Jupiter's Daughter*. Scarlett Johannson looks frightened all the while she's up in the air in that little basket, but not frightened enough to be funny. And then? Nothing. The number ends as it would in an Esther Williams movie, and there is unfunny dialogue with the swimming character concerning her pregnancy.
And so it goes throughout the movie. Things happen, but there is no followup. There are parodies of different types of movies popular in the 1940s and 50s, but the parodies aren't clever or insightful. George Clooney's character gets kidnapped by left-wing script writers, but those scenes don't tell us anything about the black-listed screenwriters of the era.
Some of the reviews on here say the movie is terrible, some think this movie is the best thing since sliced cheese. It's neither extreme. It's just a largely flat comedy, with too few laughs.
"Hail Caesar" is the film within the film: the latest Victor Mature style 'God and Sandals' epic for Capitol Pictures, starring the megastar Baird Whitlock (George Clooney). Trying to keep this movie on track - together with all the other movies being concurrently filmed - is tough no-nonsense fixer Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin). These other movies include an Esther William's style water ballet starring gal-in-trouble DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson); an Anchor's Aweigh-style musical starring Burt Gurney (Channing Tatum); and a pot-boiling drama featuring non- acting singing-cowboy Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich).
To add to Mannix's tension, Whitlock is drugged and kidnapped before the final climactic Crucifixion scene can be filmed. Who's behind the plot and why, and can Mannix restore order while keeping the story out of the eye of voracious journalist twins Thora and Thessaly Thacker (both Tilda Swinton)?
The film plays out as a series of loosely connected vignettes, some much more successful than others. Johansson's water ballet, and indeed her entire sub-plot, is all rather dull and irrelevant and in my opinion could happily have been ditched.
Channing Tatum however is a revelation as a song and dance man in a Gene Kelly tribute. His song and dance number was for me the best part of the film and I could watch this stuff all day: I would personally LOVE IT if someone would make a complete retro-feature film in this ilk. Watch out too for Christopher Lambert ("Highlander") as his almost incomprehensible Swiss director.
Capturing the most attention though is young Ehrenreich as the upcoming star without a clue. Many of his scenes, especially those with classical director Laurence Laurentz (a brilliant Ralph Fiennes) are hilarious.
Popping up in cameos are Jonah Hill (as the fixer's well paid 'man to take the rap'); Frances McDormand ("Fargo") as a dottie film editor who really shouldn't wear scarves; and Robert Picardo ("Star Trek Voyager") as the Jewish representative in a contentious meeting of religious representatives discussing Christ's portrayal in the film ("So, a priest, a Protestant, a Greek Orthodox and a Jew walked into a studio...").
Having last year enormously enjoyed the studio tour at Warner Brother's studios in LA (HIGHLY recommended if you can book ahead for when you are in town) it was great to see the studios making an actual film there again (as opposed to TV). Cinematographer Roger Deakin has great fun suffusing the studio and everything else with a 50's glow, an effect extending to the old 4:3 screen format (which I can see generating some "my DVD is defective" returns in a few months!)
Is it any good? I think it's fair to say that this is a 'Marmite' movie (which if you are non-British is a way of saying that the film will massively divide opinion). I've not seen as many people walk out of a film at the cinema in recent years.
I personally found it a light-hearted and nostalgic trip into a golden age of studio-management, show-casing again the comic gurning talents of Clooney (particularly prevalent in the scene where he gets slapped around a bit and which demonstrates his range - as if we needed reminding after "The Descendants"). Brolin is great as the straight-guy Mannix and most of the rest of the cast add value, though Johansson seems Ill at ease with her role. I'm also afraid 2 x Swinton is not equal to 1 x Mirren in "Trumbo". But it is Alden Ehrenreich that is the real acting find of the film - a breakout role for him after more minor roles in films like "Stoker" and "Blue Jasmine".
This is not the best Coen brothers film, being patchy and spasmodic and, in places, rather too clever for its own good. I got the same feeling watching bits of this (for example, the writer's meeting scene) as I do in many Woody Allen films: that I am not politically / philosophically intelligent enough to understand the niceties of the script (and I'm considered quite bright!). This can be a bit alienating for an audience.
If I think back to all its numerous sub-parts it was often in 4-Fad+ territory.... but overall it's lack of cohesive story arc brings the overall confection down a notch or two.
(Please visit bob-the-movie-man.com for the graphical version of this review. Thanks).
The film revolves around a Hollywood mogul Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), who is hired to help fix the troubled production of a Hollywood epic known as "Hail, Caesar!." The film stars the famous Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), who winds up being drugged on-set and kidnapped by a radical group of communists that call themselves "The Future." Mannix is tasked with giving the group $100,000 in exchange for his star actor.
The Coen brothers spend much of the film hopscotching from different characters and different sets in what feels like a setup for a mini-series rather than a one-hundred minute film. Such characters are Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes), a very meticulous director, Thora and Thessaly Tacker (both played by Tilda Swinton), rival, twin-sister gossip columnists, Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich), a low-rent Western actor-turned-movie-star, who is one of Mannix's closest clients, DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson), an actress who becomes pregnant out of wedlock in the middle of her film, and Burt Gurney (Channing Tatum), a Gene Kelly-type actor, also working under the order of Mannix, who winds up at the center of the film's outstanding dance sequence between a group of Coast Guard members about to embark on a nautical mission that will prevent them from seeing a dame for months.
"Hail, Caesar!" is a film of moments, meaning that, once the film is over, you'll remember certain scenes you enjoyed, certain actors' cameos (which most of the aforementioned are) you appreciated, and if you're lucky, lines you can quote verbatim. At the end of the day, the sporadic humor that those little moments provide is not enough to recommend a film. The Coen brothers don't seem to know what direction they want to take this film, and with such a concise runtime, they have no time to make good use of the actors they probably paid quite a bit to show up on set for one day. This gives the film the look and feel that most of these A-list stars are simply fighting over screen time, and that isn't funny, especially when you have true talent being only momentarily showcased so the film can dart off to the next decorated setpiece.
Then there's the issue of the film just not having much life to it outside of immaculate costume design and some strong cinematography (done by Roger Deakins, one of Hollywood's most masterful cinematographers working today). Because the actors aren't given characters to work with, no real energy or interest builds for them, and neither do character relationships. What we were supposed to gain from the scene involving Jonah Hill (who is on-screen for maybe a minute and a half) and Scarlet Johansson where Johansson's DeAnna asks Hill's Joseph if pressing down on the machine that stamps the papers hurts his forearm? Was this sort of flirtation so necessary that it needed to be included, or were the Coen's too busy giggling under their breath to notice?
"Hail, Caesar!" is overpopulated with scenes that don't work to further what little plot is here, and with such a high-stakes story about a lead actor being kidnapped by a band of communists, Clooney's Braid Whitlock doesn't seem too phased, Brolin's Mannix, who has never been a particularly strong actor to show real emotion or gusto in his personals, doesn't seem too concerned, so what is there left for us to care about?
Some comparison has been made between both "Hail, Caesar!" and Wes Anderson's "The Grand Budapest Hotel," and while the two have a similar approach to dry wit and deadpan humor, as well as similar actors like Fiennes and Swinton, Anderson's picture was a perfect example of copious energy and exhilarating, rapid-fire comic exchanges. "Hail, Caesar!" is the exact opposite; a frequently dull and almost entirely uninteresting film, predicated upon the strength of a few great scenes and some decent, albeit far, far too short, performances in a thoroughly muddled picture.
What it is is a funny "day in the life" story of the guy (Eddie Mannix--superbly played by Josh Brolin) who has to keep some kind of lid on the craziness that is the studio system of the late 40's/early 50's. Looked at from that character perspective, this is an examination of one man's struggle not only with the insanity of his star stable (Clooney/Johansson/Ehrenreich), but with the question the movie actually revolves around--will Eddie decide to stay, or will he go to Lockheed, who have offered him a job that will make him more money and get him home on time for dinner. The confessional scenes that bookend this movie allow us a fuller glimpse into why Eddie does what he does.
Brolin allows us to feel the conflict Eddie is experiencing, amidst the ever rising chaos around him (from a kidnapping, to a possible paternity suit, to having a cowboy actor take over the part in a drawing room comedy), to discover he actually likes what he does, and actually finds a sense of personal worth in handling the ever-escalating mess that is constantly pressing on him from all sides.
Brolin's performance is so tight, so controlled and so real, that he is able to carry that storyline with great vigor and compassion. The rest of the lunacy, from the underwater Ester Williams scenes, to the Gene Kelly dance spoof, to the cowboy (Ehrenreich absolutely adorable and on point) and Carmen Miranda get together, simply provides the backdrop. You don't need to know any of the Hollywood history to appreciate this film, other than to know that a good portion of movies, at that time, were not pot-boiling epics, or racy, foul-mouthed satires, but rather quiet movies about individual struggle. Brolin keeps that focus throughout this film, making the ending, just like the movies of the past, a very happy one.
A very pleasant, clever, and funny effort from the Brothers. Yes, a send-off, Valentine, if you will. I can see where people who have enshrined Lebowski as the litmus test for all Coen comedy movies moving forward would be disappointed. Fact is, the Brothers can play more than one note.
This film almost makes you wonder if the Coen Bros are caught in some sort of Star Trek time paradox and are doing their films backwards. If they had started with this film 32 years ago, the critics would say there were some clever set-pieces and the cinematography was superb but the concept should never have been greenlighted and the script was wretched. From such humble beginnings, in 2016, the Coen Bros would then be able to deliver BLOOD SIMPLE and probably win multiple Oscars for their "growth" as film makers.
But in real time, 32 years after Blood Simple, this film is so bad that people were voting with their feet and leaving the theatre at the 1:00 mark (approximately). The story is awful, the dialog is awful, and the voice-over is bad enough to be used as a "persuasion device" at Gitmo.
George Clooney should get a new agent because there is not enough money on the planet to compensate him for having to wear a costume that makes him look fat and bloated and 20 years older than he actually is. Only Channing Tatum rescues his own dignity in a tribute to Gene Kelly that actually is entertaining and engaging.
The is an awful film. I have never lied to you before and I am not going to start now.
Addendum 2-26: Frankly when I penned the above review right after leaving the theatre, I was not expecting to get involved in a controversy about how flexible the Coen Brothers were "cross-genres," or how clever and eclectic their fans need to be to appreciate the wonderfulness of this specific work. But since the controversy exists, I will add that generally the Coens have produced some of best films I have seen in my lifetime. Inside Llewyn Davis, for example, held my attention like glue, it was a polished gem. Most of their films are polished gems. Unfortunately this is not one of them. If you Google, you will find that, in spite of the sycophantic mainstream critics, this film has generated the Coens' worst box-office numbers ever. And that was the point I was trying to make. Viewers instinctively know the difference between a hit and miss. It's their job -- enjoying films is why they left home, endured the traffic, and found a parking spot in the first place. The actors here try hard, I agree, but the story and the script simply do not connect or resonate or form any empathic bond. The horror is that the "brothers" really should have known better.
There. That should get me on the poster.
A rare misfire by the usually reliable Coen Brothers, HAIL, CAESAR! had all the earmarks of a good film - veteran script writers and directors, a stellar cast and a good technical team. So why didn't this work?
Let's start with the marketing. By the previews and the television ads, this looked like a whimsical farce of a movie by the Coen Brothers. Call it "Coen Brothers-lite", in the same vein of BURN AFTER READING and O BROTHER, WHERE ARE THOU? It starred GEORGE CLOONEY as a major motion picture star of the '50s who is kidnapped by "THE FUTURE". It takes legendary Hollywood "fixit man", Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) to pull a band of Hollywood types together to find and rescue him.
But, that is not what the movie is about.
It does have a whimsical tone, I'll give them that, but that's about all that is the same from the previews. The movie isn't about Clooney's character, it's about a day in the life of Mannix and the many, many things he needs to fix. Clooney's kidnapping is just one of many stories/crisisis that Mannix needs to fix and, no, he doesn't incorporate the other stars to help out. They had their own problems.
Ralph Fiennes is a refined director working with a less than refined actor (Alden Ehrenreich). Scarlett Johansson is an Esther Williams- type who is in "the family way" and Channing Tatum is...well, I won't spoil it.
I waited all movie for these disparate story lines to merge together, but they never did. They were just different short stories stitched together to form a movie.
That would be fine, because this movie stars a boatload of Hollywood celebrities, right? Well, not really...
Ralph Fiennes is in 2 scenes
Scarlett Johansson is in 3.
Channing Tatum is in 3.
Frances McDormand is in only 1 scene, but steals the movie.
Poor ol' Jonah Hill is just in 1 scene, and really, he is in only about 1/2 a scene.
Tilda Swinton has the biggest part of these "stars", she plays twins who are rival gossip columnists that are each in 2 scenes, so she has 4!
Clooney, does have the largest of the small parts, but it still is just too little.
The other issue I have is that NONE of these characters (including, and maybe, ESPECIALLY, Mannix) have any kind of emotional arc. All characters are basically the same at the end that they were at the beginning. There really were no "stakes" for anyone, which makes for a dull movie.
To give the Coen's credit, the move is "made" well. Beautiful shots, the costumes and sets give off the proper vibe, so it's not a sloppy or shoddily made movie, it's just not a good movie. They only have 2 people to blame, the writers, which, of course, is themselves.
If you want to see a good picture about 1950's era Hollywood, check out TRUMBO.
HAIL, CAESAR!? HAIL, NO!
4 (out of 10) stars and you can take that to the Bank (of Marquis)
Before I start, I would like to say that I am neither a Coen brothers' fan boy nor am I a staunch hater of the brothers. In fact, I've found my attitude mixed towards the brothers when it comes to their films, but it's safe to say that this is easily the worst film of theirs that I have seen thus far...
So what exactly is going on here? Are the Coen brothers poking fun at greedy film directors, producers and/or film makers? Are they also laughing at the fact that a big shot 'studio fixer' would go to pieces when a 'low-rent' alcoholic actor is kidnapped and held to ransom by a bunch of Communists? This sort of satire was covered in a similar vein (and just as badly) in Birdman 2 years ago and whilst I appreciate what the Coen brothers are trying to do here it can only be considered a monumental failure.
I think the problem with this film is that the Coens try to cram too much into the film which results in the film having no real focus; you have Clooney's character being kidnapped, a sub-plot about Scarlett Johansson's character being pregnant, a bad actor Hobie Doyle getting more recognition than he deserves. This all leads to a rather messy screenplay and sadly, in this case, it's a film with several stories, but with none of the stories being remotely interesting.
The best part of this film was actually the bit where all the sailors were singing and dancing, but to be fair even that section of the film was overdone and went on for too long.
In my book, this film is a technical success - It's well-edited, and the acting is excellent by everyone involved - the Coen's really couldn't have assembled a better cast. It's a shame that their writing is so weak, the film is unbelievably boring and even their dialogue (which is usually pretty good) is rather sub-standard and ultimately it is these things that really ruin the film.
Not only was it NOT FUNNY, it was incredibly BORING and really STUPID. Not even "funny" stupid, just plain dumb. We were so surprised because it got great reviews (I seriously cannot imagine anyone finding a redeeming quality about this movie)... and because the cast is stellar we thought it would be a winner. Wrong!!!
By the way, no one in the theater laughed AT ALL. In fact, we started laughing at each other's reaction to the movie since there was nothing else to laugh at.
Some of the acting itself (aside from the boring plot and humorless lines) was decent... so I am not faulting most of the actors. The movie ITSELF was horrendous.
We gave the movie about 45 minutes and literally couldn't take it anymore, so we left.
DO NOT GO... SAVE YOUR MONEY!!!
Let's tick off what's good, that's easy and quick: Crystal clear photography (a Coen trademark), and interesting sets & costumes. The bad & ugly are endless.
The few laughs are strained and forever in coming. The movie is less than two hours but it seems endless with dialogue that just drags, scenes that last forever with no point, and actors who listlessly read their lines - FOR REAL, NOT JUST FOR THE SARCASM. There is no plot, no point, no meaningful conclusion to the stitched together vignettes.
Spoof I understand. "Oh Brother Where Art Thou?" is a spoof, a parody. "Hail, Caesar!" is a spoof of audiences stupid enough to cough up their money and time.
This movie seems to be appealing to a narrow band of reviewers and critics knowledgeable of Hollywood's Golden Age, with some pointing out how stupid the rest of us are for not understanding. That's nice. It doesn't work on any other level.
Some of the more positive reviews sound like essays from a community college film class. Quite a few of the positive reviewers have alleged "true" Coen fans will love it - hence if you don't love this movie, it's because you should be somewhere more suited for unsophisticated people, such as a wrestling match or Adam Sandler film festival. I'm not sure what irritates me more, the faux elitism or the $10.50 I paid for the ticket. This isn't a case of "some people just don't get this movie". The Coens have never been in that stratospheric league of art house filmmakers whose work only appeals to some lofty intellectual upper class. It's a "movie movie", aimed at people who appreciate movies perhaps a bit more than some, perhaps, but still at the mainstream. This movie fails to deliver a coherent, engaging story to its intended audience.
Cut out the confessional scenes, cut out the Lockheed subplot, cut back on the scenes with Ralph Fiennes, trim the scenes at the Malibu House and pare back Clooney's role (unless you can actually have him do something interesting). These can go on the DVD as "Deleted Scenes", because they already play like those.
Expand the story with Jonah Hill and Scarlett Johansson, because that could have been funny and sweet instead of an off-screen nothing. Add a climactic chase between the cowboy star and Channing Tatum, each using their already-established skills, through the studio, passing through and riotously disrupting several movie sets.
It is visually lovely, but moves slowly on its way to nowhere.
Overall, this is a C+ flick - I think it's getting over-rated by critics just cuz of the Coens' name. It's one of their weaker efforts.
Why? Because this film is poor. It lures you in with a glorious cast, who should be brilliant in this, and then it repeatedly disappoints. Scene after scene of I'm sure 'hilarious moments' on paper, that end up being naff.
Channing Tatum and Scarlet Johansson aside this is a silly film, that doesn't know if it's trying to make a point about life/Hollywood or religion or not. In the end it does none of the above.
I cannot recommend this film.
If there is a plot in Hail! Caesar, Eddie Mannix is certainly at its center. This Catholic studio head must right the ship or face catastrophe. The film is a 48 hour window of insight into a Hollywood studio, the setting for Mannix's everyday mad life. What he experiences is basically a relentless barrage of vignettes and personalities. There is a western, musicals, a costume drama, and of course the historical epic itself. Each has its style, director, crew, and most importantly its stars. The sheer density of material is somewhat overwhelming. All display are equally elaborate, including the cast, which is recognizable down to the bit parts. This is one of the best ensemble performances in recent memory. Tatum and McDormand are my personal favorite parts, but all are enjoyable. Additionally, I would bet this is the first Oscar candidate for cinematography. What will disappoint some audiences is the lack of follow up or exploration. Ideas and themes are introduced and later simply hinted at. Premium cameos are often utilized just once, lucky characters thrice at best. Some may think parody requires more extensive analysis. However, Hail! Caesar is ripe with commentary, it just never stops to take a breath. The humor is not rooted in scrutiny, rather in the absurdism and frantic pace. This style does not even prevent momentary poignancy. Hail! Caesar's climax is a parody of sappy overwrought moments of clarity, but there is a sense of a genuine moral, a true stance on faith, movies, and reality. I will certainly rewatch this film again. Remember, The Big Lebowski was not a hit on arrival. I fear comparing the two, but I feel both were smarter, more extensive, and subtly funny in ways not obviously apparent. I might just be trying too hard to hawk this movie in order to convince myself, but I sincerely think it is worth a viewing for those who have previously appreciated the Cohen Brothers body of works.
I had read into this film a bit before I saw it, and therefore my expectations were pretty much surpassed. I already knew that there wasn't going to be much plot and that a lot of the big name actors and actresses in the film were in it very little. But, no matter how negative some of the criticism I heard, I still eagerly wanted to see it. And I did see it, and I loved it!
One of the main reasons why I enjoyed it so much was because of my previous information of classic filmmaking. I knew plenty about classic epic, musical, and western cinema, and there's plenty of nods to various filmmaking techniques of that era that I noticed. A lot of this film kind of feels like it was made back in the 50s, so I have to give credit to the Coen brothers for that.
My biggest complaint was how little screen time various actors got. Many of the people who were top billed are barely in the film at all. I mean, Jonah Hill is literally on the POSTER and yet he was in the film for hardly even a minute! Couldn't his part have been a bit longer? Or maybe he simply shouldn't have been on the movie's poster! Other actors/actresses were in it disappointingly little to, such as Scarlett Johansson, Ralph Fiennes, Channing Tatum, etc. However short their appearances may be, all of the performances are extraordinarily well done, which is why I wanted to see more of these actors in the first place!
Other flaws I found were rather minor. Certain gags went on a little too long, although pretty much all of the gags worked very well for a remainder of their existence. There also isn't much of a plot for a lot of the film. While there is SOMETHING resembling a plot, there was very little of it. Of course, normally in a film (unless it is experimental or a documentary), I like a bit of plot and conflict, and in "Hail, Caesar!" there wasn't as much of it as the trailer may want you to believe. But, the film didn't really need much of a plot to keep me hooked and entertained.
There certainly were more positives than negatives from my point of view. When a gag in the film worked, it worked extremely well. And the entire film is shot beautifully as well!
There's plenty of entertainment value to be had. There's a bit of comedy, mystery, music, and even some elements of drama. I enjoyed "Hail, Caesar!" quite a bit, and look forward to seeing it once again in the near future! While there are a few problems, all the positives make up for them really well! This is a great satire that I'd recommend to people who really appreciate older films, have a somewhat dark sense of humor, and don't mind a film with very little plot
In bulk: a Roman legionnaire who discusses sociology with communists who have just kidnapped him; a starlet who plans to adopt her own newborn; a suitcase full of banknotes flowing right next to a submarine, because of a chihuahua; a motion picture exec who daily confesses his sins; ... and so on and so on ...