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Hail, Caesar! Review

3 Feb

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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.

GRADE: B

OTHER THOUGHTS:

-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.

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Photo credit: “Hail, Caesar!”, Working Title, Universal

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3 Responses to “Hail, Caesar! Review”

  1. peggyatthemovies February 4, 2016 at 1:25 pm #

    YAY!!! you got the attend the premiere!! so fun.. glad we both enjoyed the film. I totally understood though what my guest..who didn’t like it that much, meant by saying there was to many ‘insider’ moments that he just didn’t get. Might not go over big in Middle America..but I sure thought it was fun! 😀

  2. JustMeMike February 5, 2016 at 1:06 pm #

    Yes this is a film about Hollywood – not today’s Hollywood – instead it is the Hollywood of the late 30’s straight through to the end of the 40’s. As PB indicated there’s a lot of movie biz insider stuff. And as Peggyatthemovies commented – she says this film might not go over big in Middle America.

    My thought is that this is a film that is age dependent rather than a film with greater appeal based on where one lives. Young people in New York or L.A who may flock to superhero films and franchise films aren’t likely to rush out to see Hail Caesar. Whereas where I live, in Florida where there are huge number of retirees – these folks could be the core audience for the Coens. These retirees can recall the stories they heard from their own parents when they were kids about how the movies ‘used to be’

    I see this film as a homage by the Coens to the Old Hollywood – but they’re not lauding the old studio system at all. As PB states this is a film about the intersection of faith, ideology, politics, and the movie industry.

    And I thought they did a hell of job.

  3. MovieManJackson February 8, 2016 at 7:41 pm #

    Said perfectly. “…enjoyment is derived from moments in specific sequences rather than from how the sequences work together as a whole.”

    This is fun, but as a whole, it is kind of scattered. I think it is just a big piece of fluff. Which is fine, but it is fluff.

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