A big focus of a Hail, Caesar! synopsis might be the kidnapping of George Clooney’s Baird Whitlock, a movie star taken and held for ransom by a group known as The Future. However, as much as that might seem like a central storyline, it’s really just a jumping off point for the Coens. It’s important, but a typical kidnapping plot is not what they’re going for here. Primarily, they’re exploring the intersections between faith, ideology, politics, and the movie industry as they dive into the old, studio-driven days of Hollywood, and they convey these ideas through scenes of films being filmed in this very film. From a hilarious interaction between Ralph Fiennes’s Laurence Laurentz and Alden Ehrenreich’s Hobie Doyle to a wildly entertaining Channing Tatum the Tap Dancer musical sequence, Hail, Caesar! spends quite a bit of time jumping from movie set to movie set. Roger Deakins does a great job with the artificial nature of it all, the scenes on the sets coming out crisp and vivid and the wide shots outdoors establishing Hollywood as a larger-than-life world.
Unfortunately, the ‘jumping from movie set to movie set’ doesn’t quite work throughout the film, and the scattered nature of it all results in half the cast ending up in glorified cameos. I’m sure the Coens didn’t set out to write an extremely tight story here, but enjoyment is derived from moments in specific sequences rather than from how the sequences work together as a whole. In addition, far too many scenes come across as humorous asides in a film already with too many subplots; the digressions can be fun, but sometimes the film leads you to ask “What exactly is being digressed from?” even though you still know the answer. However, with this great of a cast, it comes as no surprise that they all do fantastic jobs (with limited screen time in some cases). Ehrenreich, Clooney, and Swinton in particular fit into their roles well, moving along nicely in the zany style the film is awash in.
It’s Brolin’s character, though, that the film returns to at the end, and without saying too much, it’s through Eddie Mannix–choosing between his current ‘fixer’ job and an offer at Lockheed Martin–that Hail, Caesar!‘s themes come full circle. Throughout, the film is both celebrating and sideways-glancing at Hollywood and the system, but at the end, it shines a ray of hope on what can keep us going and what makes Hollywood what it is: the belief in an idea that transcends the individual.
-Frances McDormand is so great.
-I was able to attend the red carpet premiere on Monday, and it was a wonderful experience because I got to see the movie early (they handed out passes to the crowd). Also, I met Roger Deakins! No one else waiting there cared about him, unfortunately/fortunately for me.
Photo credit: “Hail, Caesar!”, Working Title, Universal