Another tour-de-force satire from the masters.
If you love old Hollywood, Joel and Ethan Coen’s latest ‘Hail, Caesar!‘ will hit the sweet spot. Taking an approach closer to their classical farces than the more introspective thrillers of the last decade. Acting as both an affectionate tale of post WWII Hollywood filmmaking and a scathing, take no prisoners satire on everything from religion, corporate greed, and, most especially, the film industry itself. Only the Coen brothers could so lovingly “bite the hand that feeds.”
This is a story of a simple man, Hollywood producer/fixer Eddie Mannix (a razor sharp Josh Brolin). Told as a narrated fable (a la ‘The Big Lebowski’) its brimming with epic, old-Hollywood set pieces intermingled with quirky gems of mirth and mischief.
A nonstop barrage of problems–some big, some small–come at Mannix to solve. From unwed pregnant starlets, confused Commie writers seeking fair wages (WTF?!), gossip columnists digging dirt, errant directors to appease, and an endless supply of infantile talent to placate.
So when superstar Baird Whitlock (a beautifully clueless George Clooney) mysteriously disappears while filming his Bible epic “Hail, Caesar!”, Mannix already has potential solutions in hand before any ransom demands are even made–as it turns out he’s been kidnapped!
This “kidnapping” simply offers a framework for all the spectacle and subversive social commentary. With inserted big song and dance show stoppers highlighting the notable talents of Channing Tatum, Scarlett Johansson, and Alden “Han Solo” Ehrenreich (who steals the film).
And plenty of smaller, memorable character moments spread about. Watching fish-out-of-water Western star Hobie Doyle (Ehrenreich) struggle with his director (a brilliantly droll Ralph Fiennes) over how to deliver his unpronounceable high-brow dialog is a thing of beauty. While Whitlock’s witless attempts to reason with his unreasonable, overly confused kidnappers goes way beyond satire and into the realm of cinematic surrealism.
A luminous array of acting talent appear in mostly cameo-sized roles. Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Jonah Hill, Alison Pill, Clancy Brown, Fisher Stevens, Max Baker, David Krumholtz, Wayne Knight, and even Christopher “Highlander” Lambert all make an appearance. While long-standing Coens vets Carter Burwell (Music) and Roger Deakins (Cinematography) add that extra special something.
If you can’t appreciate classic Coens satire like ‘Barton Fink’ or ‘The Hudsucker Proxy’ this film might be lost upon you. Attempting to deconstruct the convoluted plot and abundant paper-thin characters will amount to almost nothing beyond glorious, glamorous spectacle. Yet, as an assemblage of old-Hollywood inspired filmgasms and biting Coen brothers wit ‘Hail, Caesar!‘ is a magical film and a riotous joy.