Synopsis: A Hollywood fixer in the 1950s works to keep the studio’s stars in line.
Release Date: February 5, 2016 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Comedy, Drama
Throughout their entire career, the Coen Bros. have vacillated between genres so effortlessly that it’s hard to pin down a singular favorite. Some will say that their work on the likes of No Country For Old Men and Fargo has solidified them as dramatists of the highest order. While fans of Raising Arizona and O Brother, Where Art Thou? will suggest the Coen’s sharp writing and timing better serves a comedy. Nearly every film in the writer/director/editors’ library has its fair share of fans, and only further prove how versatile a duo they are. Here to prove that even further is Hail, Caesar!, the Coen’s send-up of Golden Age Hollywood that’s both laugh-out-loud funny and multi-layered.
In the simplest sense, Hail, Caesar! is a movie about a kidnapping. Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) has gone missing off the set of Capitol Studios’ biggest picture to-date, a big budget religious epic with gaudy sets and outlandish costumes. Capitol Studios’ fixer Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is working desperately to get back his star and save yet another studio catastrophe, while also trying to keep a half-dozen other spinning plates in the air. His role is as important as any during this time period because in the ’50s, the stars’ images were closely tied to those of a particular studio, and any toe out of line could send things plummeting downward.
But even that wordy description barely scratches the surface of Hail, Caesar!. As with any Coen Bros. movie, the central plot is no more than a rough guide from beginning to end. By the time the credits roll, the kidnapping feels like only a small piece of a large and intricate puzzle, effortlessly and expertly woven together.
More than that, though, Hail, Caesar! is filled to the brim with memorable characters, no matter their screen time. In fact, some might argue that the bit parts are even better than the essentials. But even those bit parts help feed back into the plot, creating a seedy underbelly of Hollywood in the ’50s that feels both larger than life and authentic. Granted, the Coens choose to keep their tongues firmly planted in their cheeks throughout the entire proceeding, but there’s some truth to almost every scene. And also some really big laughs.
While Hail, Caesar! is plenty entertaining, it’s the film’s ability to generate those consistent laughs that makes it all the more impressive. Yes, the humor does have a lot of that signature Coen Bros. absurdity to it, but even then the film is plenty funny. From Clooney to minor role players like Ralph Fiennes (as critical darling director Laurence Laurentz) and Alden Ehrenreich (as up-and-coming star Hobie Doyle), everyone shines in their respective scenes.
And underneath that wit is a layer of thematic material that covers a wide variety of topics, from religion to economics to love. On the surface, Hail, Caesar! might seem like a disposable comedy, but there’s so much more to it than that. This is a film that could easily stand up on repeat viewings, offering up more and more insights as viewers dig deeper.
There’s not a single element in the film that doesn’t have the Coen Bros. signature fingers all over it. The cinematography is moody and stark in that ’50s noir type of way, the music keeps the tempo going, and the dialogue is endlessly inventive and incredibly clever. Hail, Caesar! more than earns its spot in the book of Coen – proof positive that it doesn’t matter the genre, when the two brothers are firing on all cylinders, they deliver top notch cinema.
If there’s one element of Hail, Caesar! that stands out above all others it’s the script. Written with panache and biting wit, the script for the film parodies the Golden Age of Hollywood in a way that’s both insightful and endlessly entertaining. For every big gag or clever piece of dialogue, there’s a scene or story beat that feels true to the time period. Had the Coens played the film completely straight, they likely would be nominated for Oscars, but here they are simply adding another notch to their impressive belt.
There’s so much variety to the dialogue in Hail, Caesar! that it sometimes feels written by several different groups. At times it’s fast-paced and razor sharp with its humor, while other times it’s deliberate and timed around a single punch line. At any rate, the Coens don’t get enough credit for their writing, but Hail, Caesar! shows they are as accomplished with pen and paper as they are with the camera.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Ethan Coen
- Producer(s): Joel CoenEthan CoenTim BevanEric Fellner
- Screenwriter(s): Joel CoenEthan Coen
- Cast: Scarlett Johansson (DeeAnna Moran)Channing Tatum (Burt Gurney)Josh Brolin (Eddie Mannix) Ralph Fiennes (Laurence Lorenz)George Clooney (Baird Whitlock)Tilda Swinton (Thora Thacker/Thessaly Thacker)Jonah Hill (Joseph Silverman)Dolph LundgrenAlison PillFrances McDormandEmily BeechamFisher Stevens
- Editor(s): Ethan Coen
- Cinematographer: Roger Deakins
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Mary Zophres
- Casting Director(s): Ellen Chenoweth
- Music Score: Carter Burwell
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USAUK